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FIFA World Cup: South Korea get the better of listless Greece 2-0

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park_scores.jpgSouth Korea emerged as the first victors of the 2010 FIFA World Cup as they inflicted a convincing 2-0 defeat on a poor Greek side at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth. The Asian giants were at their professional best as they strangulated the Greeks into submission in the opening game of Group B (also featuring Argentina and Nigeria).

The South Koreans dealt comfortably with the long ball approach of the Greeks and complemented their resolute defence with some sharp breaks at the Greek end of the field. Park Ji-Sung led his troops from the front and sneaked in with a wonderful individual goal after central defender Lee Jung-Soo had given Korea an early lead in the 7th minute. The Greeks were listless in their display and lacked the cohesiveness that had marked them out in their historic Euro 2004 triumph.

Group B kicked off their World Cup ambitions with the two unfancied and unheralded teams - South Korea and Greece - taking to the biggest stage in world football. The two teams may be devoid of the big names of world football, but the presence of a well gelled unit teeming with committed players has done the job before too. A testimony to the same being South Korea's campaign in World Cup 2002 and Greece's surprise title winning run in Euro 2004.

The recent past however, has been anything but flattering for the two sides. In a group comprising South American powerhouse Argentina and Nigeria, a win was an absolute must for either side to stake their claims for a place in the last 16.

Manchester United midfielder Park Ji Sung recovered in time to lead South Korea in this encounter. The vuvuzelas were in full voice as both sides fielded their strongest sides. It was a bright start to the match with Greece displaying their propensity to make the most of the dead ball situations. A 3rd minute corner was poked agonizingly over the bar by the left-back Vasilis Torisidis from a mere 6 yards. The physical nature of the Greek's game was all too apparent as they went into tackles and tried to ruffle a feather or two in the South Korean camp.

skorea_greece.jpgHowever, for all of Greece's enterprise and running it were the Koreans who got the first breakthrough in the 7th minute. Interestingly, the goal came from a set piece situation followed by some poor defending from the normally well organised Greeks. South Korean central defender Lee Jung-Soo was left unmarked in the box and had the easy job of guiding the ball home with an easy tap in.

The rattled Greeks tried to draft a reply in quick succession as they upped the tempo of the game. However, the resolute Koreans were up to the challenge and stuck to their guns. They missed a glorious chance to go two ahead when the referee failed to punish a clumsy tackle from Torisidis in the box in the 15th minute. A quick throw in from the Koreans caught the Greeks on the wrong foot and as Lee Chung-Yong set himself up for a shot at goal he was upended by the left-back.

The Koreans were expertly absorbing any pressure from the Greeks with their stubborn defending and looked to hit the Greeks on the counter. The Greeks on their part looked visibly listless and didn't close down their opposite numbers. A swift counter attack around the half hour mark from the Koreans nearly had the Greeks in trouble again as Park Ji-Sung's superb through ball put Park Chu-Young through but the striker's shot was adroitly saved by the Greek keeper Alexandros Tzorvas. The move was followed by some heated discussions in the Greek defensive ranks as they tried to come up with an answer to the clear Korean supremacy.

The Koreans to their credit were at their effervescent best, closing down all the spaces and surprisingly, came up trumps in the aerial battles as well. It was a visible cause of worry for the Greeks as they ran around the park with the Koreans playing the ball around them in neat pockets. The half came to a close but not without a scare for the Koreans when keeper Jung Song-Ryung dropped a long ball in the box with Gekas narrowly missing the offering.

The second half started on an ominous note for the Greeks as they continued with their lacklustre ways, giving away the ball too cheaply for an international team. The Greeks were dealt a hammer blow in the 52nd minute when South Korea's inspirational captain scored the second for the Asian giants. It was another defensive error that cost the Greeks big time as Park latched on to a loose ball and averted two strong challenges before calmly slotting the ball past Tzorvas.

Greek coach Otto Rehhagel had seen enough as he used all his substitutions before the hour mark in a bid to instil some much needed drive and freshness into his deflated team. For all of 72-year old Rehhagel's efforts from the touchline, Korea still looked the team most likely to score. Striker Chu-Young missed a glorious chance to bag Korea's third when he headed narrowly over the cross bar in the 62nd minute. The Greek defenders were once again caught in no man's land as the Korean striker wasted the free header.

The Koreans seemed to tire as the game progressed and the Greeks - for the first time since the opening few minutes - seemed to have the upper hand. The substitutes Salpingidis and Kapetanos were effective in the Korean half as the Greeks carved out some chances of their own. Kapetanos blasted a shot over the cross bar in the 70th minute and then Gekas came close as his shot greased the palms of the Korean keeper from a mere 12 yards. However, any hopes of the Greeks ending their World Cup scoring duck didn't materialize.

South Korea came close to getting a third towards the end with Lee Chung-Yong failing to beat Tzorvas from the edge of the box. Then from the ensuing corner, Kim Jung-Woo flashed a shot wide off the post. The match soon came to an end with South Korea registering the first win of the 2010 World Cup tournament. A thoroughly convincing display from the Asian giants got them off to the perfect start for the tournament as they did themselves a huge favour in the quest for a place in the next round. They take on Nigeria on Thursday the 17th of June, and even a draw from that match may be good enough to see them reach the last 16.skorea_greece2.jpg

As for the Greeks, the writing looks well and truly on the wall. With Argentina and Nigeria to follow next, Otto Rehaegel would need to work a miracle to get the Greeks into the knock-out stage. And going by today's performance it would be too much to ask for.


South Korea: Jung Sung-Ryong, Lee Jung-Soo, Cho Yong-Hyung, Lee Young-Pyo, Cha Du-Ri, Ki Sung-Yueng (Kim Nam-Il 75'), Kim Jung-Woo, Lee Chung-Yong, Park Ji-Sung, Park Chu-Young, Yeom Ki-Hun

Greece: Tzorvas, Papadopoulos, Vyntra, Torosidis, Seitaridis, Katsouranis, Karagounis (Patsatzoglou 45'), Tziolis, Samaras (Salpingidis 59'), Gekas, Charisteas (Kapetanos 61')

South Korea 2-0 Greece
Lee Jung-Soo (South Korea) 7th
Park Ji-Sung (South Korea) 52nd

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File Photograph Copyright: Ryu Voelkel

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