SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A poor American tour has South Korea football fans worried about the team's prospects in this year's World Cup, even if a similarly bad tour in 2002 was followed by the nation's best-ever World Cup finish.
In 2002, South Korea played five games in the United States, losing three and drawing two against the likes of Canada, Costa Rica and Cuba, but five months later it made the semifinals of the World Cup.
Twelve years on, fans are not optimistic about a repeat.
The recent tour started with a 1-0 win over a hapless Costa Rica but quickly turned sour, with a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Mexico in San Antonio, Texas and a 2-0 loss against the United States in Carson, California.
For coach Hong Myong-bo, the one saving grace was that the team was missing its European-based stars as well as those in action in the Middle East and China.
Hong, who took the job in July, is looking forward to the friendly against Greece in Athens next month, when he will have his overseas-based players available.
Players such as Son Heung-min of Bayer Leverkusen, Ki Sung-yeung of Sunderland, Lee Chung-yong at Bolton Wanderers and Koo Ja-cheol of Mainz are all regarded as automatic starters in the starting eleven in Group H of the World Cup against Russia, Algeria and Belgium.
Their understudies failed to impress in the United States and neither did those challenging for starting positions that are still available.
"It is true that we were not at our best but it was a good experience for us and will help us going forward" said Lee Keun-ho, who played in all three games.
"If the overseas players can do well, that will be a big boost to the team. In the meantime we will focus on the K-League and we can combine well in the summer to good effect."
The division between overseas and domestic players has become a touchy subject in Korean football, with outgoing coach Choi Kang-hee revealing last year that the split extended to the two groups sitting separately at mealtimes.