We've done it! We have finally reached the knockout stage of the World Cup on foreign soil!!!! We've been waiting for this moment for the longest time. Yes, I am thrilled and yes, I am proud. Extremely. But at the same time, I wasn't too thrilled or proud about some aspects of Korea's game today. It's kind of like a marriage - you love and cherish her, yet there are some things that bother... Oh hi, honey... Oh no, not talking about you... Oh no... Of course, I love everything about you! In fact, you're perfect!!
...OK, where was I?
The two sides fought extremely hard, and provided one heck of an entertaining bout. Even the referee, who was dressed like a cashier at McDonald's officiated the match very accurately and fairly, in my opinion. I also craved a Big Mac throughout the entire 90 minutes - Hmm... is that a subliminal message McDonald's has planted?
My heart does go out to the Super Eagles for giving their all and being super till the very last second. Honestly, I thought Nigeria was the better side, and that they could have easily won 4-2. They seemed to work harder with a bigger sense of urgency, and created a lot more (and better) scoring chances. But luck just wasn't on their side today - Yakubu's miss from a yard out in the 66th minute was a prime example.
Nigeria showed more stability all around, and with the exception of a few stolen balls in their own half, the West African's ball movement seemed comfortable and fluid. On attack, Yakubu and Kanu, as well as the entire midfield worked very well together to make the Koreans sweat a lot - the kind of sweat from running, as well as the kind from being nervous.
What made Nigeria's threat even more dangerous was Korea's mistakes and lapse in defense - we were giving free opportunities as if we were handing out coupons for a Baskin Robbins grand opening. Both of the Super Eagles' goals were gifted by the super bad defense who made things too easy.
The first goal was given away due to Cha Du-Ri's lax mindset in the 12th minute. Instead of simply hustling to clear the ball, he jogged until the ball got close to him. Kalu Uche must have known that Cha is not a natural defender, as he came behind Cha to slam the ball into the net. That wasn't Cha's only mistake of the game, although that was his most prominent booboo/doodoo. He often got involved in attacks as he did for the Greece game, but was late in coming back to defend several times, which caused Korea's defense to spread thin.
There was another scary moment for Korea in the 36th minute, courtesy of Uche, who cannoned a shot from 30 yards out, only for it to ricochet off the post with a BAM! Seriously, 5 seconds prior to this attempt, I saw a gap in defense, and shouted at the screen, "Get on him!!! Get on him!!!", but no~ they didn't listen. That could have put Korea in a 2-nil hole.
The penalty given away in the 69th minute by Kim Nam-Il was the most un-veteran-like move I have seen in a while. Again, a simple, fast clearance could have given the Korean defense a few seconds to catch their breath and settle in their positions. Instead, the 33 year-old former (2006) captain's decision to dribble the ball in Korea's own box led to a penalty, which tied the game at 2-2.
And talk about chances... the 2 freebies granted to Yakubu (66th) and Obafemi Martins (79) were just god-awful, but the Nigerian strikers' failure to finish were even more awful... Yakubu's miss has got to be the miss of the World Cup so far. Again, Korea was incredibly lucky not to lose.
OK, enough about Korea's mistakes. Now let's talk about Nigeria's bads, and Korea's goods.
The downfall of the Super Eagles came in their constant unnecessary fouls. The defense, especially Yussef Ayila and the big Danny "The" Shittu were obviously superior in strength (Shittu was huge like a tree trunk - reminded me of Anthony Mason from the early-mid 90s Knicks), but I found them fouling the much-faster Koreans too many times because of their tardiness in positioning. Naturally, when the axe is struck enough times, the tree will fall. Because of the repeated Nigerian fouls, both of Korea's goals came in set-pieces, and the East Asians took full advantage of this weakness.
Lee Jung-Woo's header was almost identical to the one he scored against Greece; Sneaking up unnoticed from behind to divert Ki Sung-Yong's free kick (from the similar left corner area) must have been in manager Huh's playbook. (Why does the movie Water Boy only come to mind whenever I hear the word "playbook"? Is this an indication that I need to expand my horizon?)
And I was so happy to see Park Chu-Young's free kick curl in around the wall and into the net, as it was major redemption for him after scoring the own-goal against Argentina.
Lee Young-Pyo, also contributed a lot to the Korea attack, despite launching some (unpowerful) shots which were easily caught. His constant threat on the left wing brought chaos to the Nigerian defense, Korea's first goal was generated from the foul he drew.
Prior to this World Cup, South Korea announced that their main objective was to reach the knockout stage. Well, here we are. But can we go further? Uruguay is a big obstacle standing in the way, and Diego Forlan is one of the most gifted strikers in the world. Judging by the way we played against Argentina and Nigeria, one things is certain: We have a lot of homework to do before Saturday.
But for now, I am celebrating!
Here we are,
As always, feel free to share your thoughts here. And remember - please be respectful, but DO have fun!