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Posted by Daniel Cho on 06/13/2010

The first victory of the 2010 World Cup was delivered by none other than the South Koreans, in a 2-0 rout over the 2004 European champions Greece.

From the moment this group was drawn, we knew that advancing to the knockout stage was not going to be an easy task.  Everyone assumed that Argentina will take the top spot, but it seemed the votes were split 33/33/33 on which of the remaining three would take second.  Thank god it's not as hazy as Group A (which now looks about 25% all around), but after Group B's first set of matches, the picture is now less Jackson Pollacky and more uh, Pixar. (For my lack of depth in art... Hey, had to put my excitement for the new Toy Story movie in here somewhere.)

Be honest: Did you ever think S Korea would perform this well against Greece?  I don't think any expert could have been so sure about this outcome in Port Elizabeth. 

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!


Posted by Claudine on 06/13/2010

I agree with you that the Koreans played well against Greece. We needed to attack against Greece and it worked. I'm pretty sure Huh will give more defensive discipline to the players. My guess is that he'll start with Kim nam il and Kim Jung woo as the center midfield in a 4-2-3-1 and our fantastic four leading the line. I think that we'll do the mourinho, with defending against better technical players and then counter attacking them against their slow defence. My main concern is how we are going to mark Messi and the other strikers, because I think Maradona knows how to utilise Messi. Hopefully it'll be a night when it won't work for them and we really need to score fast as soon as possible. Too bad I'll be on the plane the day this game happens, but I'll be always supporting them from the inside. Dae-Han-Min-Guk!!!

Posted by Miyun on 06/13/2010

Thank you so much for writing this blog someone told me of this and I have been reading ever since.
I am very hopeful this year about team Korea. I was a bit disappointed when Park Chu-Young missed a few great chances but considering his talent I have no doubt he will show the world what he is capable of in the coming matches. Also Lee Chung-Yong didn't shine as much this time, but with time, with time... this was a great warm up match!

Posted by jay on 06/13/2010

For that Park's goal celebration, it was voted by fans via internet few days before this match and it stated that Park will consider its celebration if he score. So basically Park just kept its promise.

Posted by young jeezy on 06/13/2010

did you mean to say rout instead of route?

because that's what that was

Posted by han on 06/13/2010

I think Huh will come out to the game with continued aggressive starting members. While it would be a better idea, as you mentioned, to use Oh instead of Cha (or the chaminator or chavatar lol) and Lee Young Pyo who are seasoned veterans at defense, I think the attacks should be more of younger players who are fearless and filled with vigor. I think Huh will use younger players like Lee Seung Ryul and maybe even Kim Bokyung for fast counter attacks. He may assign Captain Park to help out the CMs in the midfield to cut off Argentinian's attack before they get too dangerous

Posted by jleee on 06/13/2010

It was a shame we couldn't score more goals. I have a feeling (although I hope I'm wrong) that Greece will be like Togo of 2006, losing all 3 matches. Then depending on the goal difference, and the outcome of second games, we might be in a position where we HAVE to beat Nigeria where Nigeria can play for a draw. That position did not turn favorably for us in 2006 against Switzerland, but of course that Swiss team is better than this Nigeria team, so I'm confident we can beat Nigeria should we HAVE to.

Posted by Dan on 06/13/2010

Thanks for the spell check. Rout/route - funny how one letter changes everything - Like hell and hello

Posted by Anonymous on 06/13/2010

FYI, Kim Jung Woo plays for the military team in Korea (Sangmoo Phoenix), and is not based in Japan. Hence the military salute during the national anthem.

Posted by Dan on 06/13/2010

You know, I knew that he was in the military (I even wrote about it in pt 5). I'm a reTard

Posted by willpower on 06/14/2010

That was a great game but park's goal celebration with the windmill hands and then the windmill arms was embarassing. my little sister had a more masculine celebration at her sweet 16 birthday. come on park, you're representing korea!!!

Posted by D.H. Chung on 06/14/2010

I am in delirium after Korea's convincing win, but Argentina looked scary good (duh!) and I'm concerned that the rest of the group will end up beating Greece a la 2006.

Posted by Steve on 06/14/2010

Military professional team? How does that workout? Does the gov't own the team??

Posted by GT on 06/14/2010

Was I just hating on Kim Jung Woo too much?

I do think South Korea's control of the midfield led to the victory over Greece. I only worry because for every ball Kim Jung Woo takes away, he seemingly gives it right back to the opposition. When Greece was coming on, their spurts were coming off Kim Jung Woo's miscues.

I thought Park Chu Young was pressing a bit, otherwise the score could have easily been 4-nil.

Excited to see if a more perfect South Korean midfield will lead to an upset over Argentina! Can a 1-1 draw versus Argentina be considered an upset?

Posted by j yoon on 06/14/2010

finally a blog thru espnsoccernet with some read-worthy stuff on korea. i'm with you 100% on cha du ri playing well as the right back. he suprised me as i am not a fan of his (wish he played more like his dad). wish we put 3-4 in the back of the net for goal differential but it was a solid win nonetheless. the nervousness wasnt there at all for this match; i remember even when korea came away with that win over togo back in '06 it wasn't smooth sailing for me as a fan until it was over.

also so glad huh put in jung sung ryon over lee woon jae. dont get me wrong i freakin love lee woon jae even saw him play with suwon samsung vs fc seoul last summer. but if you saw his 45 minutes in the friendly vs spain he looked out of shape and was so-so at best. you could even see his gut pokin thru his keeper jersey

Posted by Korea on 06/14/2010

Korean young men have to do military service for about 2 years.
Ordinary men serve as soldiers in the army, navy, air force and so on.
However, young men with special skills can replace their period of service by working at high-tech companies, and young entertainers can do sreve as entertaining soldiers.

Kim Jungwoo is a member of military soccer team. He is a kind of a soldier, playing soccer not shooting a gun.

Posted by Joseph G on 06/14/2010

As an Asian from other country, we are so proud to see South Korean won! It's as if we are supporting our own country. =) - From Singapore.

Posted by Matthew Park on 06/14/2010

I am for Hung Jung Muh's descicion to go 4-2-3-1 with Ki Seung Yong and Kim Jung Woo as Defensive Midfielders, but if it doesn't go well and we go down early and our attack is weak, then we should go 4-4-2 in the second half with Lee Seung Ryul and Park Chu Young up top. I like how the South Korea team is confident but not cocky and careful but not too careful and still aggresvie (words of Coach Bombay from Mighty Ducks.) Personally, I think Maradona thinks less of us because of his experience in the 1986 World Cup, but for Huh, this game is personal. He wants revenge because of the loss he experienced and his duty to guard Maradona was shot down by the 3 goals Argentina scored. I am just afraid to see one of those games where Messi scores a hat trick or a quartet (Arsenal Champions League). I just hope we make it difficult then we have a chance.

Posted by yk on 06/14/2010

Spot on about Yeom.

Showed some nice touches but too many times he gave the ball away and failed to make the right decision. It seems he's slow in possession (notice his head is down most of the time) and was definitely the weak link in attack.

Against Argentina, I would replace Yeom with Namil and have the Fab Four run riot in the attacking half. If we defend as a team and spring quicky on attack, we have a fighting chance.

Also agree on Oh over Cha. Cha had some good moments but I always thought he lacked a good footballing IQ and is the most likely of the back four to play a long ball instead of looking to play through midfield. (though I must note that very few players are faster than Cha and Oh, while the better option can't match him for pace)

Posted by Adam Chang on 06/15/2010

No doubt in my mind did I think S. Korea was going to lose this game. I just didn't think they would win it this convincingly. I'm glad S. Korea is going with a younger keeper and yeah our defense is a bit suspect but I thought they held their own pretty well, albiet against a Greek team that has little to no offensive flow.

Argentina will definitely be a huge test. I just watched the EA Sports simulation, where S.Korea goes down to Argentina 3-0. I don't think it will turn out like the simulation, but I think S. Korea can believably get a draw, maybe even come out on top. Crazier things have happened...

Posted by Mike on 06/15/2010

I totally agree w/ yk.

Oh for Cha at right back. Thought Cha was the right call against Greece to deal w/ their physicality. And while Cha had a beautiful cross to Park CY, I think that Oh is a more consistent attacking threat. FBs are the biggest weakness for Argentina and putting pressure on Heinze and Jonas w/ overlapping play could yield results. Actually, the entire back four seems to be lacking pace, so pressing, running at them w/ quick one-two's and through balls could be the formula for success.

Thus Namil in for Yeom, pushing Ki in the creative role is another great call. Two solid defensive holding MF seems the smart move against Argentina. The CB's did well against Greece, but will need the extra cover against Messi et al.
If we need to chase a goal, Lee SR for Namil to inject even more pace.

Posted by Hongik Expat on 06/15/2010

Remembering the 2002 tidal wave of fanaticism, I wonder if this victory will inspire Koreans to achieve those ridiculous, beautiful levels of fervent fandom again this month. Lot of reasons to be confidently optimistic. I'm watching the Argentina game in the park...

Posted by Jin on 06/15/2010

i think we need the likes of Kim Namil to start and Park Jisung in the middle of the park as you say can do no harm. We'll definitely be on the defensive and there's no harm in giving away fouls in front of the goals outside the square. As long as set pieces don't come from the sides we should be fine. it has shown that Jabulani is extremely hard to judge for the recepient but even harder to keep it down.
We need those who can close down the attackers and committ sensible fouls. I think we need to grind out a win.

Posted by Young on 06/15/2010

Thanks Dan for the excellent blog. I can't wait for Park Chu Young to start scoring. And although you may disagree with me, Ki Sung Yong was awesome in his deep lying role. He hit every pass and dictated tempo well. Roberto Martinez was drooling over him in the analysis on ESPN (he was so excited he even forgot LCY's name). If Wenger doesn't buy him expect an offer from Wigan. My guess is PJS will be in his old CDM role alongside Kim Jung Woo to man mark Messi. Push Ki to the tre-quartista position and insert Lee Seung Ryul or Kim Bo Kyung into the left. YKH is too exhausted, and wasn't too effective. I want to see the young guns show what they got so they can get scouted. Those two have no fear, and will be awesome. And I have to say, I knew we won as soon as I saw Jung SR in goal. LWJ had his chance to lose weight since that qualifier in Tehran when he showed up 15 Kgs overweight and didn't. He got too complacent. I'm glad we have a GK with height & freakishly long arms

Posted by Dan H. on 06/15/2010

I think we played probably the best game to date in that match. But it is still not good enough for the top tier teams. I think we got very lucky and the first goal which lead the to the strong drive. PJS's goal was just pure skill. We have a definite explosive fast break to watch for. But we need more good set plays and better passing though out the field. Whatever the outcome. HWAITING~!

Posted by Glen on 06/15/2010

Honestly, I had no doubt that Korea was going to win. Seriously. I have a coworker who is Greek and he even told me that Greece's offense was, shall we say, crappy. They rely on one goal and play defense the rest of the way. Knowing this, I did some research on Greece and found out that they were ranked very high by FIFA because of their cinderalla championship win at the Euro 2006. Since then, they've sucked. I don't even know why people were calling this an upset. It's a shame. South Korea deserves better. So what if they're in the AFC? South Korea didn't lose a single game in the qualifying rounds. Plus, this is their 7th straight appearance. More than US (6), Mexico (5), or England (4).

Greece has only made the World Cup once before, and they lost all three matches. They have yet to record a single goal in the World Cup finals. After seeing Saturday's game, I doubt they'll even score a goal in this tourney. Maybe they're preoccupied with their debt crisis

Posted by Steve on 06/15/2010

What a game by North Korea... Hope South Korea can defend that well against Argentina on Thursday..

The two CBs worry me as they left a lot of space/gap in between for Gekas to exploit on Saturday, but hopefully it'll be resolved.

Posted by Jack on 06/16/2010

Thanks so much for this blog. My 16 months of military service in Korea will always be my lifetime memory. Just was wondering what the path would be to see S. Korea play N. Korea in a match along the way? I do not have the brackets in front of me, but after the way the N. Koreans played so well today against Brazil, I assume there is always a possibility. If this game ever happened, I would not even care who wins ... I would just love the match up and maybe the whole world would!!

Posted by Jules on 06/16/2010

I can't wait to see this game, if only for Maradona's entertaining gesticulations. It looks like Park will be defending Messi - a tough job to be sure, but he's been up against him before I believe (someone correct me if I'm wrong). Either way, I'm confident he will put up a great fight.

I am starting to bite my lips thinking about Thursday's match, but after watching the Argentina v Nigeria match, I must say Nigeria makes me just as nervous. That goalkeeper - WOW. And I mean WOW. He may as well have wings.

Posted by Rap on 06/16/2010

Dan, great blog. Watching N. Korea hold Brazil to a tight game should motivate the Dae Han Min Guk players. If the world's 105th ranked team (despite qualifying for the WC) can play that well against the world's best (forget Spain's bloated ranking), then S. Korea should beat Argentina handily. BTW FIFA ranking is a joke. S. Korea (7 consecutive WC final appearances and final 4 in 2002) is 47 and Greece (2 appearances in the WC and no wins and no goals)is 13??? Egypt is 12? No. 10, 11 and 12 did not even make the WC Final. Japan is 45 and Cameroon is 19? Who comes up with these rankings anyway. I am sure if Korea wins the WC it will move up to 37.

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