South Korea (Korea Republic) took on Greece in this afternoon’s early FIFA World Cup 2010 Group B match, and South Korea took apart a poor-looking Greek side to win this match comfortably 2-0 and enhance their prospects of qualifying from this most difficult of groups.
A perfect pitch and bright sunshine at Nelson Mandela Bay greeted the teams who both needed to start with a win in this difficult Group B.
Greece started brightly and worked a good opening for Torosidis on the half volley from a corner in the second minute.
Cha signaled Korean intentions to shoot on sight when attempting to unleash a long range effort from 30 metres, but his effort was well charged down.
Korea scored in the 7th minute from a free kick right in the corner. The ball was well crossed by Ki and eluded all Greek defender’s heads, yet Korean centre half, Lee Jung-soo, managed to hit the ball on the volley from around a metre out for the simplest of back-post goals. The player was totally unmarked.
This early goal ensured the game would be more expansive, however, as Greece would have to come out and seek an equalizer.
South Korea settled well following their goal and began retaining possession well. Though Greece also looked to get touches on the ball during the first 12 minutes or so, they seemed a little impatient hunting the final ball that wasn’t on a couple of occasions, with the result being the ball going out for a goal kick.
Korea got into the Greek penalty a further couple of times in the opening fifteen minutes, the second time centre forward Lee had an excellent opportunity from a throw-in but missed the ball on the half volley from inside 10 yards. His claims for a penalty were weak, and rightly turned down by the New Zealand referee, Michael Hester.
Following this Greece worked the ball up field and a great long cross was knocked in from deep, but was well won in defence by the South Korean centre half Lee.
The Greek midfield allowed an awful lot of time and space to the counter attacking South Korean side from the resulting corner which was cleared, before winning the ball back in defence, and creating a half chance of their own via another long ball.
The same long punt forward tactic won a corner in the 22nd minute for Greece, but the ball was punched clear by the Korean goalkeeper which set up another counter attack for South Korea which centre forward Park volleyed well wide. This was another warning for Greece to be careful against this speedy counter attacking side.
The referee bought a dive from a Greek defender on 25 minutes as Korea were bursting into the Greece penalty area – showing perhaps a propensity to blow for anything resembling contact – denying the South Koreans a good opportunity to add to their tally.
Park chu-Young had a great opportunity when he was put through one-on-one to double the score line but the Greek goalkeeper, Tzorvas, made a great save with his legs to keep his side in the match.
With the clock still yet to register half an hour, Greece looked in danger of getting overrun, as South Korea had started very brightly. Greek defending in particular looked vulnerable and was not being backed up by their absent central midfielders. This was most evident during quick South Korean counter attacks, to which Greece had little answer in the opening thirty minutes.
Greece won a corner in the 33rd minute after another long ball, this time to the corner, saw them win another corner from a tackle. Yet again, however, Karagounis failed to beat the first man with his cross – Greece’s sixth corner of the match. It looked as though a set piece would be Greece’s best opportunity to get back on level terms, however.
Karagounis won a free kick on 38 minutes from which he could put the ball into the box, but he failed to deliver a ball to the men on the penalty spot, and the South Korean defence headed clear easily.
On 41 minutes, Park Chu-young was allowed to turn and shoot from 25 yards. Though his shot went well clear of the bar, it seemed like it would be South Korea who would score next, should Greece continue with their current lethargic approach.
Greece had a half chance when they launched yet another long ball into the penalty area, which Jung in the South Korean goal misjudged slightly as the ball came out of the bright sunshine he was facing, but the goalkeeper managed to catch the ball cleanly.
Soon after the referee blew to end the opening half with South Korea leading 1-0, following a half of football during which they could have hoped to score more than once, such was their dominance.
Greece had been restricted to just one clear-cut chance in the opening couple of minutes and a number of hopeful, and, increasingly, long balls pumped into the box from left and right sided defenders, which South Korea coped with easily.
In particular, the Greek midfield seemed slow and unwilling to track back quickly when South Korea broke from defence, something which exposed their defence on a number of occasions in the opening 45 minutes. This lethargy ran right through the Greece side in the first half, however, as forward players like Samaras did not seem overly concerned about working back to give their side a chance at an equaliser.
Should this pattern continue into the second half, at half time it looked like a South Korea win was on the cards, with the only question mark being how many of their frequent chances they would be able to finish against the slumbering Greek eleven? Defeat seemed to be staring Greece in the face at half time, unless the Greek management could muster their troops into a more active second period.
Captain Karagounis had been a prime candidate for replacement and Greece began the second half having removed their underperforming central midfielder and looking like they were going to adopt a more patient approach as they looked to pass the ball around. However, South Korea soon won the ball back, and were quick to get a cross into the Greek area before the cleared ball was worked back for the half chance of a blocked shot from 25 yards.
It looked like we could expect more of the same, despite Greece’s efforts to right their midfield frailties.
Park Ji Sung scored what would surely be the decisive goal after more Greek lethargy led to his pinching the ball in the middle of the pitch and beating one man before rolling the ball into the bottom corner.
The goal came on 53 minutes from a benign situation with the Greece team in possession, captain Park showed great composure to take his self-made chance well.
2-0 to South Korea was nothing more than they deserved – or, rather, Greece deserved for their apparent lack of effort and application in the first 50 minutes of this World Cup group match.
Unless Greece could shake themselves into action, they looked in real danger of getting severely embarrassed by the South Korean side that were beginning to really enjoy their comfortable lead as the clock ticked towards the hour mark.
Korea had a great chance to kill the game in the 63rd minute when Park chu-Young got his head to an excellent cross but failed to hit the target from 6 metres. It appeared a question of when they would get a third goal, and whether they could add more.
Greece still seemed unwilling to put in much effort and looked resigned to a limp defeat with 25 minutes remaining as they failed to retain possession, and squandered what ball they did have with over-hit long balls.
The Greeks almost self-destructed on 70 minutes when they were chased back into a dangerous back-pass but their goalkeeper managed to clear under pressure.
Soon after, Greece got one of their rare half chances, but failed to force a save yet again.
In the 71st minutes, Greek wing play further up the pitch resulted in a good low cross which could have been turned in by a number of players, but was put out for a goal kick.
Greece sent a cross in following a half cleared corner and Torosidis found himself in front of goal with the ball once more, instead of taking a shot, however, he tried to beat his marker, allowing the South Korean defence to regroup and steal the ball.
Greece needed a goal, and fast, if they were to use their spell of relative pressure and turn around the match.
South Korea brought on Kim Namil to replace Ki Sung Yeung in the centre of midfield, the player was to sit in front of the defence and break up Greek attacking plays.
Greece won yet another corner via a half blocked shot on 75 minutes.
Once again, South Korea won the initial header and half cleared, but were caught by the ball played back in which eluded their centre half and was volleyed. The ball appeared to strike a Korean arm as it was blocked, but the assistant referee had his flag raised for an offside in any case.
With ten minutes remaining, the brief Greek respite almost paid off as Gekas swivelled in the area following another deep cross and hit a volley which was well saved by Jung in the South Korean goal.
Once more, however, the corner came to nothing.
Park chu-Young worked the goalkeeper from 30 yards and won a corner in the 83rd minute with a low shot.
South Korea almost profited from a long ball as Park chu-Young was put through while Greece chased an elusive goal, but the ball bounced just out of his reach to the Greek ‘keeper.
It was all too easy for South Korea to pass their way up the pitch a moment later resulting in another save from Tzorvas in the Greece net, this time from a low, driven shot from Lee from around 15 metres.
With five minutes remaining, Greece looked a spent force as South Korea rested Park chu-Young who had worked hard to create plenty of opportunities in the match, but had failed to get himself the goal he perhaps deserved.
The final whistle blew after two minutes of stoppage time with the scores at 2-0 to South Korea, with the Korean side in red in possession in the Greek half, as they had spent most of the match.
South Korea had been as excellent as Greece were awful: if they play like this in their other two matches, Greece will get completely taken apart by Argentina and Nigeria.
South Korea buoyed by this excellent win – and a positive goal difference of two – know that a win in one of their next two games should see them through to the knock-out stages. Nigeria beware this counter-attacking team – today, had they needed to, they could (and perhaps should) have scored again.
Group B is led, at least for an hour or two, by South Korea.