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Thursday, 20 June, 2002, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Luis Enrique full of respect
Luis Enrique trains with Spain on Thursday
Luis Enrique trains with Spain on Thursday
Spain v South Korea | Quarter-final
Sat Jun 22 2002 | 0730 BST | Gwangju
Live on BBC 1 & Radio Five Live


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Spain midfielder Luis Enrique is expecting the toughest of examinations when his team face South Korea on Saturday.

He is full of respect for the World Cup co-hosts' individual skill and their collective never-say-die attitude.

The way the Koreans refused to admit defeat in the latter stages of their second-round tie with Italy left a particularly strong impression.

Open Quote
The Koreans have improved a lot - now they play more like Europeans and they have kept the same level of physical fitness
Close Quote
Luis Enrique

"They keep going in the last ten minutes of a match in the same way they start the game," Luis Enrique told a media conference on Friday.

The 32-year-old Barcelona midfielder played against the South Koreans in the 1994 World Cup and remembers how difficult it was then to deal with the Koreans' speed and athleticism.

The game finished in a 2-2 draw, although the Spaniards had been considered huge favourites to win.

"The game was played in Dallas and it was extremely hot, but the South Koreans were flying," Luis Enrique said.

"Since that game, they have improved a lot. Now they play more like Europeans and they have kept the same level of physical fitness."

Controversy

In his opinion, Spain have a unique opportunity to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time in the country's history.

In 1994, the Spaniards were eliminated by Italy in the quarter-finals in a match marred by a controversy in which Luis Enrique was one of the protagonists.

Towards the end of the match, he was elbowed by Mauro Tassotti inside the Italian box, but the referee did not see the offence and there was no penalty.

Italy won 2-1 and went on to beat Bulgaria on the road to a final with Brazil.

Luis Enrique appears relieved to have avoided another meeting with the Italians even if it would have given him the opportunity for some personal revenge.

"You would have kept asking me questions about Tassotti's elbowing," he told reporters on Friday. "At least I am free from that."


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