The significance of this win was more than just recording 3 points. It was a statement of "arrival", from a small country in the far east, that wants to be noticed by the world, and to disprove those who claim the miracle of 2002 was just a mere fluke.
It also marked the arrival of a new generation - changing of the guards, so to speak. Starting Jung Sung-Ryong over Lee Woon-Jae at the goal means more than just one player starting over another. It means not relying and holding on to the heroes of the past, but recognizing the need to open up a new chapter.
That one move was the first thing that manager Huh Jung-Moo did right. And the fact that he did not even bother putting in Ahn Jung-Hwan or Lee Dong-Gook as substitutes was also a sign that we are finally moving forward.
Someone commented in my initial reaction post earlier that this was the very first time he didn't feel nervous watching Korea play in the World Cup. And now that I look back, I too felt the same way. Well, except for in the first 5 minutes.
Korea looked a bit unstable in the opening minutes, allowing two dangerous situations, and almost seemed as if they weren't sure how to approach this match. But as the game progressed, they established rhythm and structure in the midfield. And then...
Lee Jung-Soo opened up the scoring from a set-piece in the 7th minute. The unmarked center back jumped in to divert Ki Sung-Yong's freekick to make it 1-0. From that moment on, Korea never looked back. And I jumped up and down, shouting new "South African" words I just made up, and scaring my confused baby girl in the process.
It could have easily become 2-0 in the 14th minute, when Bolton midfielder Lee Chung-Yong was clearly tripped up from behind in the penalty box, but referee Michael Hester let the play continue. Turns out, Hester has a rather lame past with South Korea; the New Zealander (who also happens to be a lietenant commander in the NZ navy - insert your sailor joke here) apparently was unfair towards Korea during the 2008 Beijing Olympics when they faced Honduras. ...Yeah, I don't know why I just shared that. ...Oh yes, I know - this game could have ended with the score 3-0! IF everyone ends up beating Greece and two or more teams end up with the same amount of points, the number of goals scored will determine who goes through. Happy ANZAC day, Mr. Hester!
Park Ji-Sung's 52nd minute goal was a typical Captain Park move - creating something out of nothing. He saw an opportunity and took full advantage of Loukas Vyntra's lack of ball control to put away the Greeks for good. The Man U man has scored in each of the last 3 World Cups, and all against European football giants (Portugal, France and now Greece) - he is truly leading by example. He just needs to come up with a better goal celebration than windmilling his arms. (He should study some youtube clips of Robbie Keane, Obafemi Martins or vintage Roger Milla celebrations. He could even use Robbie Fowler's creativity.)
The summary of the match was mostly positive for Korea, but there are a few things that need to be addressed.
- The holes in defense - if the Argentines are given the same chances that the Koreans allowed the Greeks, they would have an easier time converting those. That goes without saying.
Also, Greece had almost twice as many corner kicks (11-6). We should remember that Argentina can score from any situation, and that their match-winning goal over Nigeria came from a corner. And if it weren't for the amazing keeper, the final score could have been 5-0.
- Yum Ki-Hoon - he was very busy up front, though not as effective as a teammate, or an individual. He did take away attention from Park Chu-Young - I give him that, but then tried to do too much on his own.
- Cha Du-Ri - Did more good than bad, and I don't fault him for getting involved in the attacks as much as he did. However, he needs to focus on getting back on defense and limiting pass/cross options.
Again, Cha wasn't bad at all, but I think Oh! Bum! Suck! would be a better fit as the right back against Argentina. He is faster and has better ball-handling skills. Well, the South Americans are somewhat of an eleven-headed monster - Messi or Tevez or Milito or Di Maria or Higuain... Any of those heads can come out of nowhere and bite you. The Korean defense will be a lot busier in our next game.
Overall, I am happy with Korea's all-around performance, especially with Kim Jung-Woo's. The military midfieler's tireless devotion and smart plays showed that Korea has more than just a few featured stars that play in Europe.
In a way, every single member came out to demonstrate what a different team this is from any of the previous squads we've had. With this convincing win over Greece, South Korea now can stay positive and on course. I am not so confident to say that we can beat Argentina (maybe after a few more beers I'll change my tone) but a tie would be great!
...Well, let's hope for one. You know what they say... "Lowered expectation is the key to happiness." This way, there are no disappointments - that's my motto in life!
As always, please feel free to leave your thoughts below. Note: Any irrelevant, unnecessary, or mean-spirited (attacks on race, nationals - well, you may pick on the French, or shape/size) comments will be ignored or edited. Please be respectful, but do have fun!