The 2002 semi-finalists are back for another go at the World Cup glory. In their first game, the South Koreans not only defeated Greece 2-0, but also delivered a proper lesson in modern soccer.
Greece’s best chance came in the second minute, after which they pretty much left the field to the Koreans, who quickly established their domination of the mid-field. After Greece, rather uncharacteristically, allowed them to take the lead in 7th minute, for the next 65 minutes the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium’s pitch was a lecture room in which Koreans thoroughly dominated.
The Greeks’ German-born coach Otto Rehhagel is a hero in his adopted country and the winner of the 2004 European Cup. On Saturday he broke legendary Italian manager Cesare Maldini’s record for the oldest manager at a World Cup game; he is 71 years old. The team he created plays a game of soccer that relies upon their iron-clad defence and frequent counter-attacks. However, Korea’s early goal managed to wreak havoc in their tactics and they were forced to play the type of soccer they never felt comfortable with: an attacking, most players up-front style. That, inevitably, caused quite a few holes in the defence and it almost surprising that the Asian team did not score more than just one goal, after Park’s initial brilliant solo effort.
Photo: Greece’s coach Otto Rehhagel (R) watches the the start of their match against South Korea during their 2010 World Cup Group B soccer match at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth June 12, 2010. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won
The defeat has almost certainly banished Greece into the bunch of teams on their way out of the World Cup. As for the Koreans, they look very composed and, apart from showing some signs of fatigue towards the end, their future looks very promising indeed.
Here are this reporter’s notes:
Before the match
Nelson Mandela Bay stadium is stunningly beautiful, basking in the Port Elizabeth sunshine. The teams were so rearing to go that they came out couple of minutes too early.
South Korea: Sung-Ryong Jung, Young Pyo Lee, Yong-Hyung Cho, Beom-Suk Oh, Du-Ri Cha, Chung-Yong Lee, Jung-Woo Kim, Sung-Yueng Ki, Ji-Sung Park, Chu-Young Park, Ki-Hun Yeom
Greece: Alexandros Tzorvas, Giourkas Seitaridis, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Sotiris Kyrgiakos, Nikos Spiropoulos, Giorgos Karagounis, Kostas Katsouranis, Vasilis Torosidis, Georgios Samaras, Dimitris Salpingidis, Angelos Charisteas
- 2nd minute: Greece has a first corner, and a first real chance, with Torosidis sneaking up unimpeded in the penalty box, only to miss the Jung’s goal.
Even as they are obviously very skittish about sending not too many players forward, the Greeks employ up to eight players from the breaks.
- 7th minute: Korea scores! Greece defence was uncharacteristically sloppy in covering Korean centre-forward Lee from Sung-Yueng Ki’s free-kick cross that came right on the corner spot.
Photo: South Korea’s Lee Jung-soo (2nd L) eyes the ball before shooting to score a goal during the 2010 World Cup Group B soccer match against Greece at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth June 12, 2010. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
The Korean goal clearly took wind out of Greece’s sails; they did not enjoy conceding the goal in the opening minutes of their first World Cup fixture, while the Koreans’ optimism is boosted by their fastest-ever World Cup goal. The fact that the much-shorter Koreans are wining most of headers is of particular worry for the Greeks who base most of their defensive tactics around their air superiority.
- 14th minute: The Koreans scream penalty as Yong-Hyung Cho is impeded from the back by Torosidis just as he was about to score the second goal. The New Zealand referee remains silent.
Over the last many years, Greece was most comfortable playing the subdued game, waiting for the opportunity to score a goal from counter-attacks. Korea’s early goal is forcing them to open up, leaving their defence open to very, very fast Korean wings. It does not look good for Greek players.
From their side, the Korean defenders are fast and disciplined. Greece will almost certainly try to get as many free kicks as possible near the penalty box.
- 28th minute: Just as we predicted, Park Ji-Sung and Park Chu-Young combined in an almost perfectly executed counter-attack that was denied in the very last moment by the Greek goalkeeper’s instinctive reaction. The Greek defence is more and more unsteady; the players are unhappy and nervous. Koreans dominate.
- 33rd minute: Greece’s corner shows just how low in ideas they are. The Koreans deal with it intelligently and energetically. The Greeks would probably be able to score only with the perfect cross and Charisteas’s header, which doesn’t look likely at this point.
Technically, the Koreans are in a class above the Greeks, who are mostly chasing their shadows.
- 44th minute: The Korean goalkeeper appears to be blinded by the light as he stops the speculative shot by Gekas, and, 30 seconds later Charisteas almost flicks another deep ball into the Korean goal.
The first half over, Greece appears shocked by Korea’s superiority and bewildered by their own inability to claw their way back into the game. They will have to make a substantial change and the wily old Rehhagel will have to summon all the tricks he learnt during his long career if he is to reverse the Asian team’s tide.
Rehhagel replaces captain Giorgos Karagounis with Kapetanos. Bold move, let’s see if it pays back in any way.
Photo: South Korea’s Cho Yong-hyung fights for the ball with Greece’s Angelos Haristeas (R) during their 2010 World Cup Group B soccer match at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth June 12, 2010. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
For the first five minutes there’s only one team on the field: Korea. Greece is outplayed.
- 52nd minute: Manchester United’s Park Ji Sung scores after a brilliant solo effort as he interrupted the Greeks’, who made a dreadful passing error. The game is now firmly in Korean hands – or rather, feet.
- 56th minute: The first yellow card goes to Greece’s Torosidis for a dreadful tackle from behind. The Greeks’ nerves appear frayed.
- 60th minute: Greece’s hopes appear to be gone. They are slow and unmotivated; their once-famous cohesion is missing. Worst of all, they have no ideas. Their long balls are not precise and even when they are, there’s nobody up front to pick them up. It is very difficult to see how they would change their current status.
- 63rd minute: A free header by Park Chu-Yong flies just above the crossbar. Greece’s defenders looked as though they are just observers. Thoroughly demoralising.
- 68th minute: Gekas has a first chance, but, in truth, he never appeared to have a chance of slotting his overhead kick into the Korean net.
- 70th to 71st minute: Kapetanos shoots high above the crossbar as Greeks show some more urgency, finally managing to spend couple of minutes in and around their opponents’ penalty box. Are the Koreans getting tired?
- 74th minute: Korean manager Huh Jung-moo does what is necessary and brings on the sweeper Kim Nam Il, replacing tired-looking mid-fielder Ki Sung-Yueng. That should improve the Korean defence that has been slightly unsteady for the last 10 minutes.
- 76th minute: The Greeks appeal for a penalty after the ball hits a Korean defender in the midriff. The referee responds by declaring Greece offside.
- 78th minute: The Koreans are tired, but still manage to mount a series of counter-attacks.
- 81st minute: Gekas finally summons a good shot at the goal from 14 metres, but it goes straight into Korean keeper, who reacts well.
- 82nd minute: A good 25-metre low flying, slightly bouncing shot by Park Chu Young was pushed by Tzorvas’s fingertips into the corner. Great save.
- 85th minute: Lee Cheun Young almost scores from the counter attack. His low shot into the corner was smartly saved by Tzorvas. The Koreans appear to have weathered their 15 minutes of low energy, which is proven by another great chance by Kim Jung-Woo, who missed by slamming the ball just outside the Greeks’ goal.
- 90th minute: The Greeks are so despondent that it takes them a full 30 seconds to throw the ball in. The game is all but over.
- 92 minutes: It’s over. The Greeks went down without a whimper.
Report by Branko Brkic
Main photo: South Korea’s Park Ji-sung (C) celebrates after scoring a goal against Greece with teammates Ki Sung-yong and Lee Young-pyo during their 2010 World Cup Group B soccer match at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth June 12, 2010. REUTERS/Carlos Barria