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Posted by Daniel Cho on 06/16/2010

As a kid growing up in both South Korea and the United States, I was never really poor, but at the same time, my family wasn't rich, either. I'd say we were somewhere slightly below the middle - my parents worked hard to provide food and shelter for me and my brothers, and we lived rather frugally. I inherited my older brother's underwear, and my younger brother inherited that same underwear from me. ...Oh, did I say we lived frugally? I actually meant "dirt cheap".

Although I had everything I needed to live on, I was often jealous of kids who had things - those who lived in nice big houses, with their own cool rooms with Star Wars decor. But I was most jealous of their many awesome (and often expensive) toys. I remember going to a friend's house and discovering Nintendo for the first time - I believe it was Mike Tyson's Punch Out which they were playing. I stood there thinking to myself, "Wow... at this very moment, I am living in the future!" ...Yeah, I didn't have too many friends growing up.

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!


Posted by sam on 06/16/2010

May I edit your post with my own bias?

1) Title = Don't cry if you lose, Maradonaaa!!

2) Messi = Pro Evolution Soccer Game with a Holographic Projector

3) If Maradona is Beyonce, Messi is Alessandra Ambrosio!

4) You did insult my 3 Argentinian collegues because they swear that they are the only nation that know how to prepare a BBQ! (I love Korean BBQ!!)

5) If Milito comes in, I feel he can do more damage than Tevez

6) Cheesier nickname for the 4 stars = The Fantastic 4 (Jessica Alba was part of the cast in that stupid movie...what a waste!)

7) Greatest Asian team ever assembled = Super Taikyu Race Queens at Suzuka Circuit (ok, ok, I am getting off focus here...)

8) Prediction = 3-0 Korea WIN! (die-hard Asian bias!)

9) and finally, yes, I inherited my sister's lunch box for a while when I was a kid...Talking about being embarassed!

Great blog as always Daniel! Thank you so much and sorry for the stupid jokes! Wishing the best for all Korean fans!

Posted by Argo on 06/16/2010

Ha! S korea has no chance against Argentina! Final score will be 4-0, Argentina - all scored by Messi!!!

Posted by aureus on 06/16/2010

There is greater parity in world soccer today than in the past, and the first round of games has shown the even bottom team of this tournament can give the top team trouble.

Argentina will probably win 6~7 games out of a 10 game series, but the Koreans can take 3 or 4. In this tournament, teams play each other just once.

There is no question Koreans are hungrier than the Argentinians and have the mental advantage of being the underdog with low expectations. The game is played way above sea level, and a dogged Korean defender has shut down Luis Figo in his prime before. Maybe Messi can be annoyed and contained.

Regardless of the outcome, I think the Koreans will make a respectable showing.

Posted by Daewoong Kim on 06/17/2010

This was a super fun read! And I think it was actually a fair analysis on both teams. (It certainly gave me perspective.)I too sense that tonight's clash will be a memorable one. Something magical is about to happen . . . and I can't wait for it to happen! Thanks again for the thoughtful post Daniel. Enjoy the game!

Woong's prediction = (2:1) Korea Win (one Korean goal per half)

Posted by Jules on 06/17/2010

I fully support Korea with all my heart, but I mean c'mon, it's Messi. He's a damn rocket with legs. His performance against Nigeria has shown he's fully ready and hungry for a goal. I'm desperately hoping for a tie. But I would be thrilled with a 1 or 2 goal difference too.

Dan, your post made me wonder, does S Korea have any recruiting outlets for children with budding talent? Seems we are way behind other nations in this respect.

Posted by Eric Bees on 06/17/2010

This is a Great fan Blog......very nice analogy and I somehow feel related to it (especially on that huge Millenium Falcon replica....gosh that thing is magnificent)........

All in all I don't think that South Korea would beat the Mighty Argentina, but they will give them a hell out of fight predictions is a draw of 0 - 0 (there I go biased, as an Asian I would certainly support this Korean team at some point)

The idea of JiSung marking Messi is good as it is a role that Park has experienced before at Man U. He'll get the job done, as long as the others also keep their cool and position to stop other Argentinian stars

My other insight is to sacrifice one of the forwards (Yum Ki Hun probably) and going with 4 - 5 -1 formation and instill the tackling happy Kim Nam Il to help Kim Jung Woo clear the territory and go head to head with Mascherano in that matter....(I senses blood all over the pitch.huh)..very interesting battle I presume.

So prepare your barbeque

Posted by CONAN on 06/17/2010

I think the pressure is on South Korea. As the North Korean have shown the fighting spirit in this tournament against Brazil South Korea would like to emulate them by beating the 2nd strong powerhouse in South America. I hope they can come up draw and both team qualify for next round. If South Korea face Uruguay, I think they have more chance of reaching quarters.....

Posted by Iceberg on 06/17/2010

Reality check: Argentina 3 - S. Korea 0

Posted by Glen on 06/17/2010

Damn. You called it. Korea loses by three goals. It doesn't look good for them right now. I'm hoping for a draw for the Greece/Nigeria today. If that happens, Korea will make it to the next round if they tie or beat Nigeria. I say tie because there's no way Greece is going to beat Argentina unless Argentina doesn't play its starters, which they don't have to since they're gonna win the group regardless of what happens.

Posted by Iceberg on 06/17/2010

Told ya. Next, Nigeria will take out a pathetic Greece side, then take down S. Korea 3-1. Nice tournament, Red Devils. See ya.

Posted by sam on 06/17/2010

So sorry it ended the way it did, despite the heroic effort by the guys, Daniel... But realisticly speaking... could it have been any other way?

Ok, if Ki-Hoon's shot had found the correct side of the net early in the second half, maybe?? your "prediction" would have prevailed... 2-2... Objectively speaking, not fair for what Argentina had been showing, but then again, "unfairness" is also what makes this game so much fun to watch!

Either way, Argentina proved to be a monster and were the worthy ones to win "this one". For an un-biased spectator, the show displayed by the Albicelestes was awesome!

Obviously, my "prediction" posted in an earlier comment was waaay off... but, I got one thing right:

"Greatest Asian team ever assembled = Super Taikyu Race Queens at Suzuka Circuit !!!"

Cheer up and lets concentrate on Nigeria! The options to move on are still intact and mostly depend on Korea themselves!! Thank you again for a great blog!!

Posted by albicelestefan on 06/17/2010

Great post! Keep your chin up -- I'll be rooting for you against Nigeria as you played a clean and strong game against Greece.

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