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United star gets South Korea going with a win

South Korea's Ji-Sung Park (left) scores his sides second goal of the game against Greece

 

South Korea’s Ji-Sung Park (left) scores his sides second goal of the game against Greece

Times Online

June 13, 2010

SOUTH KOREA, who previously had won just a single World Cup finals game away from home, this time romped through in a canter. Their two goals could have been doubled or even trebled and it was highly appropriate that the second of them, early in the second half, should go to the Manchester United attacker, Park Ji-Sung.

Nominally playing on the far left, he popped up wherever he pleased, always quick, intelligent and splendidly elusive. His goal, however, had all too much to do with the ineptitude of the Greek centre-back Loukas Vintra who clumsily failed to clear an easy enough ball, enabling Park to dance through and easily beat the Greek keeper Alexandros Tzorvas low into the right-hand corner.

The Greece coach, Otto Rehhagel, said on qualifying: “This time, we’ve climbed the mountain and we can be proud.” But after this result they may be said to have plunged down a crevasse.

It was in 2004 that Greece so surprisingly won the European Championships in Portugal. The big striker, Angelos Charisteas, who scored in the 2004 final, played yesterday, one of four survivors. But the three-man attack had little impact on the South Korean defence. Indeed, we had to wait until the 80th minute before another of the Greek strikers, Theofanis Gekas, brought the South Korean goalkeeper Jung Sung-Ryong into action with a hooked left-footed shot that Jung turned over the top. Gekas was the most prolific scorer in the European qualifiers with 10 goals. You could hardly blame him yesterday for the general ineptitude of his team’s attack; he did what he could, but there was pitifully little coming to him from the flanks or from behind.

The Greek tactics were hard to understand, though their 4-3-3 formation had worked well in the past and was good enough to beat Ukraine in a playoff to reach South Africa. Their decisive goal that night was scored by Dimitrios Salpingidis, though yesterday he started on the bench and came on for the generally ineffective Celtic striker Georgios Samaras after 58 minutes.

Given the expensive and embarrassingly error by Vintra it was hard not to wonder what the Liverpool centre-back Sotirios Kyrgiakos might have done much more effectively in his place.

The whole South Korean team were far more flexible, quick and enterprising than their opponents. Especially effective was the dynamic overlapping of Cha Du-Ri, the right-back. He is the son of the first major star his country produced, the winger Cha Bum-Kun, who flourished years ago in the German Bundesliga. On 63 minutes, an especially effective piece of attacking by Cha was crowned with a cross that gave Park Chu-Yung an excellent opportunity but he headed the ball wide.

The first South Korean goal came after just seven minutes. A free kick from the left brushed the hapless head of Greece’s Kostas Katsouranis, enabling the South Korean centre-back Lee Jung-Soo to drive the ball home.

Seven minutes later Lee Chung-Yong felt, with perhaps some justification, that he had been fouled in the box, but no penalty was given by the New Zealand referee Michael Hester. South Korea kept up the pressure and on 25 minutes looked unlucky not at least to have been given the opportunity to score. Park Ji-Sung cut in, this time from the right, and appeared to have an excellent opportunity to shoot, only for the referee mysteriously to give a free kick against him.

The supposedly solid Greek defence was frequently found wanting. When Park Ji-Sung sent Park Chu-Young through, a very late desperate lunge by Vintra gave a slight deflection to the ball, enabling Tzorvas to save athletically.

Just before half-time sudden and unexpected confusion on the part of the Korean goalkeeper Jung gave Gekas a chance, but he couldn’t make full contact.

Rehhagel tried to ring the changes in the second half and there was fractional improvement in what had been a plodding performance, but overall, the South Koreans were vigorously dominant.

Star man: Park Ji-Sung (South Korea) Yellow card: Greece: Torosidis Referee: M Hester (New Zealand) Attendance: 31,513 South Korea: Jung Sung-Ryong (Seongham) 6, Cha Du-Ri (Freiburg) 7, Cho Yong-Hyung (Jeju) 6, Lee Jung-Soo (Kashima Antlers) 7, Lee Young-Pyo (Al Hilal) 6, Lee Chung-Yong (Bolton) 7 (Kim Jae-Sung (Pohang) 90min), Ki Sung-Yong (Celtic) 6, Kim Jung-Woo (Gwangju) 6, Park Ji-Sung (Man Utd) 8, Park Chu-Young (Monaco) 7 (Lee Seung-Youl (Seoul) 88min), Yeom Ki-Hun (Suwon) 6 Greece: Tzorvas (Panathinaikos) 6, Torosidis (Olympiakos) 6, Papadopoulos (Olympiakos) 6, Vintra (Panathinaikos) 5, Seitaridis (Panathinaikos) 6, Samaras (Celtic) 5 (Salpingidis (Panathinaikos) 58min, 6), Tziolis (Siena) 6, Katsouranis (Panathinaikos) 5, Karagounis (Panathinaikos) 5 (Patsatzoglou (Omonia) h-t, 6), Charisteas (Nuremburg) 5 (Kapetanos (Steaua Bucharest 60min, 6), Gekas (Eintracht Frankfurt) 6

Asia’s best

South Korea got their World Cup off to a winning start against Greece yesterday to emphasise their position as Asia’s most successful country in the competition. Ranked 47th in the world — 35 places below the Greeks — they finished in fourth place when they shared the finals with Japan in 2002. It was that performance which alerted the top European leagues to their players, Manchester United’s Park Ji-Sung being their most famous export. The Koreans first qualified for the finals in 1954 and have competed at every tournament since 1986. They will want to avoid a repeat of the 2006 finals in Germany when they also won their opening game, against Togo, but were eliminated after taking a single point from their final two games.

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