Korea Republic brought back memories of 2002 as they saw off Greece with a display recalling the same virtues of pace and mobility that took them through to the semi-finals eight years ago.
Football may be far from a precise science, but it unarguably possesses its own logic. Despite the disappointment of defeat, even Greece would have to concede that after succumbing to a side mastering both speed and movement. Those twin qualities lay at the root of Korea Republic’s triumph, with their superiority reflected as much in the stud marks covering every centimetre of the pitch as it was in the scoreline itself.
“It’s still too early to say that the Korea of 2002 are back, but what’s certain is that we were able to use our speed to maximum advantage,” goalscorer Lee Jung-Soo told FIFA.com. “We expected the Greeks to be slow. We knew that even if they were bigger and more physical than us, we had to use our speed as our principal strength.”
Right-back Cha Du-Ri echoed those thoughts. “We were wary of their physical style because they’re big and go hard into the tackle,” he explained. “But I was surprised by how slow they were; we didn’t think our pace would cause them so many problems. It even made it possible for our midfielders and the full-backs like myself to offer more of a threat going forward.”
Game plan respected
“The plan was to make the most of our mobility and to be constantly on the move,” added the Taeguk Warriors coach Huh Jung-Moo. “Our attacking play had to be based on short, quick passes. That was the best way of causing them difficulties.”
His theory was proved correct as the east Asians showed themselves to be far too incisive for a Greece team guilty of uncharacteristic defensive lapses. In the opposition camp, Otto Rehhagel was left lamenting his side’s mistakes. “The first goal came from an error on our part – a failure to mark,” he said. “To concede a goal so early on in the game disrupted my team and they weren’t able to respond.”
The German tactician, who led Greece to European glory in 2004, could only watch from the sidelines as the situation deteriorated for his charges. “After that goal, we lacked confidence and aggression, with [Georgios] Karagounis a prime example. That’s why I brought him off at half-time; I had to change something.”
‘They played like warriors’
Although he denied that his team suffer from a lack of pace – “We’re not slow” – Rehhagel was quick to congratulate the victors. “The Koreans played like warriors and were faster than us,” he admitted. “They deserved this win.”
He will now consider shuffling his pack, with the absences of Vangelis Moras, through injury, and Sotiros Kyrgiakos, who started on the bench, possibly contributing to Greece’s troubles in central defence. “We’ll discuss among ourselves what didn’t work and make the necessary changes,” said Rehhagel, who hopes to have Moras fit in time to face Nigeria on Thursday. “Nothing is set in stone and everything is possible.”
As for Korea Republic, they will tackle Argentina on the same day, “with confidence running sky high” according to Cho Yong-Hyung. He and his team-mates will no doubt do a little running themselves.