The presence of Korea Republic made this one of the most eagerly awaited of groups. Although anxious to please the fans, the home favourites lacked composure in the final third and had to watch as Latin American duo Peru and Costa Rica took the Group A honours. For their part, bottom-placed Togo failed to translate the obvious ability of their players into convincing team performances.
The tale of the teams
Peru: The Incas were unquestionably the revelations of the group. Basing their gameplan on defensive solidity (no goals conceded in three games), the prodigious talents of Reimond Manco and the goalscoring instinct of Carlos Bazalar, the side coached by Juan Jose Ore revealed an uncanny knack for striking at just the right time. The last-minute victory against Costa Rica ensured they would go through as group winners, much to the joy of the people back home, who are starting to smile a little again following the huge earthquake that rocked the country just before the tournament began.
Costa Rica: Just as they did at Peru 2005, the Central Americans pitched up in the Far East with a well-prepared unit able to outrun tiring opponents in the closing stages of games. It was that superior fitness that helped them secure a point late on against Togo, and put two past the hosts in the dying moments of their meeting, goals that secured their place in the knockout phase. It was somewhat ironic, then, that a last-minute strike should deny them top spot when they faced off with Peru in their final game, although that seemed more a case of tired minds than aching legs.
Korea Republic: The home side failed to meet the expectations of the fans who turned up en masse to cheer them on. With their high-tempo, direct approach, the Koreans dictated the pace in their first two games but were undone by some alarmingly wayward finishing. The goals finally came in their last game against Togo, but unfortunately for them, a 2-1 win was not enough to take them into the last 16.
Togo: Few sides as talented as Togo have exited tournaments with such little reward for their efforts. The Togolese possessed some of the group's most talented performers in their ranks, but a lack of teamwork denied them the opportunity to progress further. Another shortcoming was their inability to protect the early leads they established against Costa Rica and Korea Republic, a failing that was to cost them dear.
Moments to savour
• The amazing goal that helped Peru dispose of Korea Republic. Carlos Bazalar's diving header struck the post and rebounded back to the prostrate striker, who nodded into the empty net.
• The celebrations of the Peruvian players' after defeating the hosts, joyous scenes no doubt inspired by their promise to give the country a lift in the wake of the earthquake.
• The masses of fans who gathered at Suwon Sports Complex to see cheer the home favourites on. Their vociferous support was all in vain, however, with Korea Republic slumping to defeat in both games.
• Costa Rica's second goal against the tournament hosts, a perfect example of how to execute a counterattack.
• Reimond Manco's darting runs, Eder Hermoza's flying saves, Mani Sapoul's exciting talent, Yoon Bitgaram's silky skills, Marcos Urena's searing pace and the attributes of all the players who made this the tightest group of the competition.
The numbers game
With only nine goals in six games, an average of 1.5 per match, Group A was the lowest-scoring pool of the six. And while they are the only side in the tournament yet to concede a goal, group winners Peru have also scored the fewest goals of the 16 qualifiers; two in all, both of them scored by Carlos Bazalar.
The closing remarks
"I'm absolutely delighted we finished top in such a tight group. The boys put in a lot of effort to give the people of Peru something to smile about after the terrible earthquake that hit the country. I'm very proud of them and of all the people who have supported us on our way here. The hardest part starts now though, and we can't afford to ease off," Juan Jose Ore, Peru coach.