We knew this was going to be the most difficult match of the group, and it indeed was (although a loss against Nigeria would prove a bigger nightmare for us). They were better in every sense - number of opportunities, ball possession, composure, luck, even the fans in the stands. The South American giants were simply on a higher plane (not a misspell - they were literally flying) than the Koreans, and made us look silly most of the game. We got ...hmm, what's that word in the English language I'm looking for? ...Oh yes, "Spanked" is the word. Or more bluntly, "Violated". It was like the scene with Andy Dufresne and the Sisters in Shawshank Redemption. (Don't visualize it too much.)
I watched the game at a sports bar in New York's Korea Town, and the mood went from being pumped with loud cheers, to "It's OK, it's OK, we can still get back into this" with uninspired claps, to "Give me another drink."
Lionel Messi lived up to his price tag, and constantly demanded double/triple-teaming, which freed up the many other scoring threats to punish Korea again and again. As a result, Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain came away with a hatrick, and Argentina was even gifted an own-goal by Park Chu-Young. But hey, he couldn't help himself - he's a striker, and likes to score goals.
Despite Lee Chung-Yong's first half injury-time goal (which cheered me up until the start of the 2nd half), I saw that it was going to be a losing fight, if the Argentines kept coming in waves like that.
I've read comments from (you awesome) readers, and various articles (both Korean and non-Korean), pointing out manager Huh Jung-Moo's tactical errors against Argentina. And I felt the same way, as he certainly could have done things differently to better Korea's chances. Then again, if we got lucky and came out with a victory or a tie with the exact same game plan - he would be praised for being a genius and a great tactician.
Let's face it - no matter what formation/approach Huh was going to use, we were going to lose 4 out of 5 times. Plus, Maradona's men came prepared, more determined, and outdid the Koreans in their own strongest department - teamwork. Whenever Korea had the ball, men in sky-blue shirts quickly came to help, and it seemed like the Taegeuk Warriors didn't possess the ball more than 2 minutes at a time. It got so ridiculous and desperate, that the people at the bar were cheering every time we touched the ball.
Javier Mascherano had a huge hand in closing the door on Korea's offense, especially on Park Ji-Sung, who was barely visible the whole match. The Liverpool man read every pass coming, and tackled like a pro to prevent anything from building up.
If I had to pick on one thing Huh Jung-Moo did wrong, it has to be picking Yum Ki-Hoon to start yet again. His presence was disruptive during the Greece match, and here he was again - being subpar. I admit, he did his best, and ran hard throughout the match, but you know the saying, "sometimes your best just isn't good enough"? Well, that applies here - it was so apparent that he was constantly a step or two behind and out of his league. Most of all, his missed opportunity in the 57th minute had to be the most painful moment of the match. What could have been a momentum-shifting game-tying goal (if he simply used the inside of his right foot which seemed like a natural thing to do), became another cause for us to bury our faces and drink more.
If this analysis isn't long or good enough for you, there are plenty of other breakdowns of this match out there, so feel free to browse around - Google news is a good place to start. I'm getting more and more depressed as I type each and every word, so I must stop now.
And thanks to all of you for cheering me up and reminding me it's still not over. But me being down had to do more with the revelation of how much we have left to go in order to become one of the great footballing nations, than the hurdle we just tripped over in advancing to the knockout stage.
I will do a preview of the Nigeria match later, but just want to let you know that I still have (plenty of) hope left in me. Thanks again.
As always, feel free to leave your thoughts. Please be respectful, but do have fun with it!