South Korea reaches round of 16
By Kim Hyun-cheol
In the start of a new epic for its football history, South Korea made it to the round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup, for the first time in an overseas tournament.
Lee Jung-soo scored in the first half and Park Chu-young netted a second after halftime, as Huh Jung-moo’s squad managed a 2-2 tie with Nigeria in its last group stage match in Durban, Tuesday.
The result could have been not enough for a seat in the top 16, but the East Asians outplayed Nigeria and Greece in their Group B competition as Argentina beat Greece 2-0 in Polokwane. South Korea placed second in the group with four points, ahead of Greece with three points and Nigeria with one.
South Korea, which returns to the knockout stage in eight years, takes on Group A leader Uruguay Saturday at Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth, where the team got off to a flying start for its World Cup campaign with a 2-0 victory over Greece on June 12.
South Korea outplayed Nigeria in attacks with 16 shots, eight of them on target, compared to Nigeria’s 11 shots including three on goal. Some critical mistakes in defense, however, gave up two goals to the Africans, which kept the Taeguk Warriors from claiming a victory they could have deserved.
It was Nigeria who took an initial lead. In the 12th minute, Kalu Uche converted a Chidj Odiah cross from the right to a sharp drive in the center of the box that hit the deep right of the net. Cha Du-ri was standing right behind the Nigerian midfielder, but failed to mark him on time.
However, South Korea leveled it in the 38th in a virtual repetition of the first goal against Greece, which led to Lee’s second goal of the tournament.
Ki Sung-yeung bent a free kick to the right post side, and Rabiu Afolabi left an inrushing Lee Jung-Soo unmarked as the defender headed it. The ball fell on Lee’s foot, then found the net past goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.
South Korea strengthened its pressure on the African counterpart after halftime and it paid off soon. Three minutes into the second half, Park Chu-young made up for his painful own goal in the Argentina match by curling a beautiful free kick inside a far right post, beating Enyeama’s diving effort.
The team seemed to keep control on the pitch for the next several minutes, but a poor defending action allowed Nigeria to tie the score as Kim Nam-il, who replaced Yeom Ki-hun after halftime, fouled Chinedu Ogbuke in the box on 68 minutes for a penalty kick.
Aiyegbeni Yakubu rolled the ball into to the right, on the opposite side of Jung Sung-ryong’s saving effort.
Last-ditch attempts by the desperate Nigerians offered flooding threats to South Korea, but they didn’t lead to another scoring circumstance. Obafemi Martins had a critical one-on-one chance in the 79th minute, but his lobe shot went over Jung, then went wide to the right.
Victor Obinna then gave Korean defenders a fair alarm in the last five minutes. Following a mid-range drive on 89 minutes that narrowly went off the post, the forward fired another shot outside the box in the injury time, which didn’t hit the target in an end to the country’s World Cup journey.