Nigeria and Korea Republic lock horns for the first time at the FIFA World Cup™ in an encounter which may determine the runners-up slot in Group B. The South Koreans have prior experience against African opposition at the finals, having prevailed 2-1 against Togo in the first round at Germany 2006. For the Nigerians, however, this will be the first time they face an Asian side at the global showpiece.
Huh Jung-Moo's men enter the game with three points to their name, having defeated Greece 2-0 before going down 4-1 to Argentina. By contrast the west Africans are still pointless having succumbed to Argentina (0-1) and Greece (1-2). There is undoubtedly less pressure on Korea Republic, whose progress will be assured provided they pick up a point and Greece fail to beat Argentina. However, should Greece manage to beat Diego Maradona's side, the Taeguk Warriors would require a victory by at least the same margin. The Super Eagles, meanwhile, have no choice but to win, and hope for an Albiceleste victory against Otto Rehhagel's men in order to remain in the competition.
The two sides share a common weakness, namely their tendency to commit defensive errors. On the upside, the east Asians can count on their lightning speed and a talismanic captain in the shape of Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-Sung, as well as defensive rock Lee Jung-Soo and midfield orchestrator Kim Jung-Woo. The two-time African champions hold the upper hand in terms of physical power and will again look to marauding midfielder Kalu Uche and goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, both of whom have caught the eye in their previous matches. It all makes for a fascinating tussle between two sides with very distinct footballing philosophies.
Players to watch
Park Ji-Sung v Vincent Enyeama
The South Koreans' last two encounters only served to enhance the standing of skipper Park Ji-Sung, in spite of that loss to Argentina. Fleet of foot and always in the right position, the hard-running midfielder showcased the full extent of his talent with a fine solo goal in the victory over Greece. Against Nigeria, the 29-year-old Manchester United player will have the arduous task of outsmarting one of the stand-out keepers of the tournament so far, namely Enyeama. Despite Nigeria's two disappointing results, the Hapoel Tel-Aviv stopper has pulled off some stunning saves which demonstrated his incredible agility and reflexes to the full.
7 – The number of consecutive matches Nigeria have played without a win in the FIFA World Cup. Their last success, a 1-0 triumph over Bulgaria in France 1998, was followed by a 3-1 reverse against Paraguay and a 4-1 drubbing by Denmark in the same campaign. During the 2002 event the Super Eagles suffered two further defeats, 1-0 to Argentina and 2-1 to Sweden in 2002, before labouring to a 0-0 stalemate with England.
What they said
"It'll be very hard now. We've lost both matches and it looks like we won't make it to the next round, even if we beat the South Koreans. We’re basically out of the tournament," Joseph Yobo, Nigeria captain
"We have a lot of players on European teams who have accumulated experience playing with and against African players. They tend to be very flexible, strong and speedy, in very good physical condition," Park Ji-Sung, Korea Republic midfielder
Voice of the fans
"If Nigeria are knocked out they'll all go home disappointed, except for Enyeama. He'll get snapped up by one of the big European clubs," Egyptian_90 (Egypt), FIFA.com user
Can Nigeria end their luckless run in the FIFA World Cup by bouncing back with a win that keeps them in contention? Will Korea Republic let slip their chance to make the Round of 16 for only the second time in their history?