Can't go to World Cup? Bring it to the Capital

EDINBURGH football fans heading for Easter Road on Sunday will do so mostly out of curiosity, the match between South Korea and Ghana the closest most of them will get to this summer's World Cup finals.

It will, after all, offer Hearts supporters their first chance to see signing target Ahn Jung-hwan in the flesh alongside his Korean team-mates Park Ji-sung of Manchester United and Spurs' Lee Young-Pyo with Chelsea star Michael Essien, pictured below, in opposition. But in Asia Korean supporters will be preparing to burn the midnight oil as, with just five days to go before the greatest footballing extravaganza opens in Germany, they tune in to watch the game live.

Incredibly, the final warm-up match for Dick Advocaat's Korean outfit will be beamed by all three national television stations - the first time they have done so since the Asian side lost out to Turkey in the play-off for third and fourth places at the last World Cup.

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As a nation of 43 million people switches on for kick-off at 11pm local time (it will be 3pm in Edinburgh), the interest in the game will also be apparent at Easter Road with almost 100 journalists already accredited including 35 reporters, 17 photographers and 41 television crew.

To put that in context, when Rangers, Celtic or Hearts visit Leith requests for press passes run at about 80 while the biggest media contingent in Leith, topping 100, witnessed the epic UEFA Cup clash between Hibs and AEK Athens five years ago. Easter Road's press box will, however, cope comfortably as it is designed to take up to 157 people.

The media interest aside, the novelty of having such a match in the Capital appears to have aroused plenty of curiosity with advanced ticket sales reported to be "strong".

Hibs secretary/director Garry O'Hagan said: "There seems to be a very strong Asian student community in the UK and the minute the game was announced we were inundated with requests for tickets."

Hibs are planning to open the bottom tiers of the West, Famous Five and South Stands along with the East Stand, which will accommodate 10,000 spectators and O'Hagan appealed for anyone intending to attend the match to buy their tickets in advance.

He said: "The match has been attractively priced at 10 for adults and 5 for concessions including full-time students and we are anticipating a very large 'walk up' crowd on the day. You have to bear in mind that many of those who will be coming to Easter Road will be unfamiliar with the lay-out of the ground so to minimise any hassle on the day we'd suggest that, if they can, fans should buy their tickets beforehand."

In addition to a healthy crowd - Hibs can open further areas of the ground if required - a host of coaches from other countries are also expected to be at Easter Road with Korea drawn in Group G against France, Switzerland and Togo while Ghana will face Italy, the United States and the Czech Republic in Group E.

O'Hagan said: "Italy, the United States and France have already asked for tickets along with a number of British clubs."

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Easter Road was chosen for the game after one-time Rangers boss Advocaat decided to finalise his team's preparations at his old club's training complex at Murray Park while Ghana will play Jamaica in Leicester before heading for Edinburgh. And Michael D'Arcy, director of Kam Sports International who have made all the arrangements, is sure Edinburgh's fans won't be disappointed.

He said: "With this being the last game for both countries before the World Cup starts, you can be guaranteed all the big names will be there. It's an unique opportunity for the people of Edinburgh to see such a match, one which will have two contrasting styles of play. And, for Hearts fans, there's the added bonus of seeing Ahn Jung-hwan, who has been linked with a move to Tynecastle, in action.

"Dick Advocaat wanted a warm-up match in a neutral country which wasn't going to the World Cup and, with Togo in their group, he also wanted a further game against another African country after playing a 1-1 draw with Senegal.

"We spoke about perhaps playing at Ibrox but even with 10,000 fans inside there wouldn't have been much of an atmosphere.

"Easter Road has been the 'stadium of choice' outside Glasgow for the SFA on a number of occasions, Sweden, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago and Finland have all played there in recent years. When we mentioned it to Dick, he just said 'fine,' he didn't even want to come through for a look because he knows the ground well from his time as Rangers manager.

"The facilities at Easter Road are great, the stadium is UEFA compliant, and the playing surface is perfect which was a key factor because the teams don't want to pick up any avoidable injuries so close to the World Cup.

"With Edinburgh fans having no real affinity for either country it's hard to say just how big the crowd might be but in Korea it's a huge game.

"All three television stations are taking it live and with Korea being eight hours ahead of us, it means the people there probably won't be getting to their beds before 2am."