Sunday, June 20, 2010

South Korea Set For Nigeria Showdown

South Korea may have been brought back down to earth by Argentina on Thursday but a place in the second round is very much a possibility. If Argentina defeat Greece, the team Korea defeated 2-0 in the Group B opener, in Polokwane on Tuesday, then a draw against Nigeria a long way to the south in Durban would be enough.

It is going to be a tense evening but hopefully it will end better than a chilly Thursday afternoon in Soweto when Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain scored three to help Argentina to a 4-1 victory.

World Cup 2010.

Two goals early in the first half and two late in the second gave the South Americans the win. The star of the show was Lionel Messi, the world’s number one player who had a hand in almost everything good that Argentina did. The good news is that Nigeria don't have such a player.

The bad news is that if, though it seems unlikely, Greece were to defeat Argentina, then even a win may not be enough for the Taeguk Warriors. The late goals conceded negated and then reversed Korea's goal difference and even Nigeria, after two defeats in two, could finished second with a win over Korea.

Coach Huh Jung-moo will be doing bis best to make sure that doesn't happen. He has the chance to write his name in the Korean history books by leading the team into last sixteen.

After switching from 4-4-2 to 4-2-3-1 for the Argentina defeat, Huh will likely switch back for Nigeria and Lee Dong-gook is set to make his first start in the tournament after recovering from a hamstring injury. Lee will partner Park Chu-young in attack, replacing the ineffective Yeom Ki-hun.

In 2002, Korea needed just a draw in their final group game against Portugal to move into the second round and did more than that and won 1-0. Four years ago, the team needed to defeat Switzerland but instead lost 2-0. Captain Park Ji-sung is hoping that it doesn’t all come down to goal difference.

"It could be a problem but we won't think about drawing or losing [against Nigeria]," the South Korea captain said. "We will just focus on winning the game.
"They've got a strong team, African teams are individually strong and fast, but we know how to deal with African teams and we will just prepare perfectly for the next game."

Park played centrally against Argentina and had a quiet game, failing to get much change out of Javier Mascherano going forward while trying to keep an eye on Messi.
"Our players aren't disappointed or discouraged from the loss to Argentina," said Huh. "We will prepare thoroughly as our third match against Nigeria will be the final showdown in the group stage."

"We won't go out on the field aiming for a draw," added Huh. "It will be a difficult match but we will play a winning game."

Nigeria will be without the suspended Sani Kaita after a sending off in their 2-1 loss to Greece that followed an opening match loss to Argentina. Coach Huh thinks he has spotted some weaknesses. "As seen in the case of Sani Kaita who was sent off the field, we need to put pressure on the Nigerians so that they become agitated and lose their temper," added Huh. "We cannot allow them to play freely on the field."

It is time for the Korean team to stand up. The Greece win and performance impressed the world. The loss to Argentina was a setback but if South Korea can defeat the hitherto pointless Nigerians and reach the second round with six points then it is history made, mission accomplished and then time to have fun in the knockout stage.

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