These toys I didn't have (and I mean some really really cool toys - a Millenium Falcon the size of a large desk that totally looked real, with a furry Chubaka in the cockpit, Gundam and Macross robot collections etc) always made me feel like my life wasn't as cool, and that those kids lived a much fuller life. This is an issue I still struggle with today. I go to some rich person's house, and it's super modern, with an amazing skyline view overlooking Central Park, and they have a 200-inch flat screen/HD/3D/whatever with the latest technology, a huge poster of "Heat" with the entire cast members' autographs (including Pacino and De Niro's) hanging in the living room, and to top it off - a shiny silver new Audi... And I often want those things.
"Why are you sharing all this stupid stuff with us? Suck it up, you ungrateful sissy! Go see a therapist!! This is ESPN, not your diary!! You suck!!!" might be what you are saying out loud right now. But hey - settle down... Put the rocks and sticks and red stapler down... I'm going somewhere with this. I share this with you because that is how I feel looking at Argentina's World Cup roster. They have oh-so many toys. World-class toys, that is.
First of all, Argentina has the most prized possession in Lionel Messi, the state of the art home entertainment system. Or you could call him the bowling alley in the basement. (I should stop watching MTV's Cribs)
Argentina has been blessed with this "greatest" gift once before, with Diego Maradona in the 80's, who is currently the manager. (well, some find his behavior "grating", but you cannot dismiss his talent in his prime.) The debate over who's better - Diego or Lionel will continue on for another 10 years, but to me - Messi is much more valuable. If Maradona is Megan Fox - an amazingly hot commodity, yet a little too wild and off the rocker, Messi is Jessica Alba - the total package without the baggage. (I could be totally wrong on Alba - I don't read the tabloids, and don't know enough about her personal life, so please do inform me if I got this all wrong. Throw out some better examples. Regardless, those pictures were totally worth searching for.)
I'm sure you have seen YouTube clips of his highlights, but the reigning World Player of the Year will cause a lot of problems for South Korea. There isn't much he cannot do, and if he is left alone, he will end up scoring 4 goals himself, so he must be contained. ...Well, easier said than done. The entire La Liga has tried that for the past few years, and couldn't find a solution.
While every eye will be on Messi (and rightfully so), Korea's entire effort shouldn't be solely poured into stopping him, either. There is NO GUARANTEE that he will be stopped when he is double/triple or quadruple-teamed. We have seen him come out of congestion with the ball time and time again, that it might not be a good idea to focus too much on that task. And even IF he is stopped, Argentina has too many other weapons in Higuain, Tevez, Milito, Di Maria and the rest of this All-Star team, that someone else can and will more than likely step up. For me, Tevez is the other one to fear. He may not have Messi's sensitive touch and the ability to maneuver the ball in traffic - but if he is given a little space, he will charge with the ball at full speed and finish the job (better than anyone out there). There should be a man on this Man City man at all times. Man...
OK, enough about how great Argentina is (and they are indeed great).
If there is one thing South Korea does better than Argentina, it is barbecue. Oh, I mean - their organization. (I think I just enraged the whole nation of Argentina on the BBQ comment... but it is 100% true!) Yes, talent-wise, Argentina is light-years ahead of Korea, but if every man sticks to his duty, and is where he is supposed to be, and help out where a hand (or should I say foot) is needed - it is not entirely impossible to stop this South American beast - just as we saw Switzerland beat the world's #2 ranked 2008 European champs Spain 1-0 with teamwork earlier today.
Both wings will be awfully busy, but central midfielder Kim Jung-Woo is probably the most important piece for South Korea in this match, as he will play a big part in stabilizing the midfield, and keeping things in tact. This less-handsome version of Xabi Alonso got my MVP vote against Greece, and hope he can display the same form (or better) in this second match. (Park Ji-Sung too has a crucial role, but he will be very busy doing something else - see below.)
Obviously, the Argentines have A LOT more fire power, and Korea will spend more time on their feet trying to prevent on-slaughts from happening. However, the key for a Korean victory (or tie) is counter attacks. The Korean media has a cheesy nickname for their 4 stars - "Yang-Bahk, Ssang-Yong", meaning Two-Parks (Park Ji-Sung and Park Chu-Young) and Double-Dragon (Lee Chung-Yong and Ki Sung-Yong). These four do work very well together in high-speed situations, and could possibly capitalize on a nice run or two. Also, the "weakness" (being nit-picky) noted from the Nigeria match was that Argentina's "old" (they're all younger than me - ah, depression coming over me...) defense is slow and unstable. I am sure Maradona will try to fix these issues, but LCY and PJS specialize in exploiting slower opponents.
One positive note is that Park Ji-Sung has had success in limiting Messi a few years ago in the Champions League semi-finals, when Man U defeated Barcelona. Captain Park can be a pest that will NOT leave his marked man alone - and he can do this for an entire 90 minutes. Messi is fast, but so is Park. Not to mention - Messi doesn't have Three-Lungs! (OK, another bad play-on-word...)
Despite not having the world's riches, I am a fairly happy man today. We pretty much live month-to-month, and I don't have cool toys or latest gadgets or fancy cars that I always wish I had. But I am blessed with a beautiful loving family, and I have a job that many people would die to have. Maybe the word is content. ...And this is how I feel about South Korea at this World Cup. Sure, we don't have the piles of sweet toys, aka stacked roster that Argentina has, but South Korea is blessed with great qualities, with an ever-growing potential. No matter what they say, this IS the greatest team Asia has EVER assembled. With many players who have performed well in big European leagues, and with the determination and organization this squad has shown in recently years, I think we could definitely make some noise well beyond the group stage. And hey - look! South Korea started out this campaign by comfortably beating Greece in their first match! Not too shabby...
My prediction (and yes, I am totally being biased and speaking as a die-hard South Korea fan) is that it will end in a 2-2 draw. There.
As always, please feel free to share your thoughts. Note: please keep it clean and respectful, but do have fun!