Monday, June 2, 2008

Sloppy Korea Making Hard Work Of Qualification

Jordan celebrate at the final whistle

“I couldn’t understand it” said South Korean coach Huh Jung-moo last Saturday night.

He wasn’t alone. Around 55,000 people in Seoul World Cup Stadium were also scratching their heads and shouting their disapproval after watching the national team somehow allow Jordan to come back and draw 2-2 in a qualification match for the 2010 World Cup.

Park Chu-young steps up for his spot kick

It had looked so good –the situation that is. The performance was nothing special but early in the second half, South Korea was leading 2-0 thanks to a goal from Manchester United’s Park Ji-sung that brought the house down and then a penalty from Park Chu-young that seemed to have brought the curtain down on the fixture with the middle-eastern team ranked 104 in the world by FIFA.

Korean players congratulate Park Chu-young on his penalty

Then it all went wrong. Substitute Hasan Abdel-Fattah scored with Jordan’s second attack of the match after 72 minutes. Then the Korean players lost their heads and shape. Seven minutes later, the whole Korean backline may as well have been at the anti-US beef protests in downtown Gwanghwamun for all the good they did in allowing Hasan to stroll through the middle and export something of his own that sent the visitors crazy.

more Jordan celebrating

It was a hugely disappointing end. A win would have seen Korea take control of the Group Three at the halfway stage. The top two progress to the final round of qualification.

Seoul debutant’s Lee Jang-soo and Lee Chung-young did enough to keep their places though the former will be told to keep his place at the back when you are defending a 2-1 lead with ten minutes to go.

For the rest, there is much for coach Huh to ponder. Fortunately, he and the players can make amends quickly. The two teams meet again in Jordan on Saturday. A defeat in Amman would put Korean hopes of a seventh successive World Cup appearance in danger. For so long have the Taeguk Warriors appeared on the global stage every four years that it is taken for granted.

With players such as Park Ji-sung, Lee Young-pyo, Kim Do-heon and others, perhaps that is to be expected but the last 20 minutes of the Jordan match was a wake-up call that qualification through Asia, is getting tougher all the time.

After saying last week that Jordan was nothing to be scared of, coach Huh seems to have changed his tune. “Jordan is strong. There are no nations easy to play against and the away match will be a tough one for us to handle.”

It will be. Instead of arriving in Amman four points clear of their rivals, the gap is just a point. Jordan will be even happier after witnessing the way Korea crumbled under pressure in the final 20 minutes. King Abdullah International Stadium is expected to be sold-out with 54,000 people hoping to see stars such as Park Ji-sung and Ahn Jung-hwan leave empty-handed.

A dejected Park Ji-sung

Three and a half years ago, South Korea crashed 2-0 in Saudi Arabia in a match that became known as ‘The Damman Shock’. An ‘Amman shock’ would be much more serious.

copyright: John Duerden &

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1 comment:

sefati said...

South Korea needs Ghotbi back as their assistant coach the guy knows his stuff.

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