The South Koreans, bidding to reach the second round for only the second time in eight FIFA World Cups, kicked off their group campaign with a 2-0 win over Greece, but then crashed 4-1 to Argentina to leave them second in Group B. Nigeria staggered from an opening 1-0 defeat to the Argentinians to a crucial 2-1 loss at the hands of the Greeks, who meet table-topping Argentina in their final group match, also on Tuesday.
So for the Koreans, it all hinges on their final group game against Nigeria. "We must win to get to the second round," said Gwangju Phoenix central midfielder Kim Jung-Woo. "Some people are talking about a draw being enough, but we want to win. We must try not to concede a goal, especially early on, and we'll have to be highly organised from the very start to the finish."
Kim acknowledged that the Super Eagles represented a tough physical challenge, but added that he thought the South Koreans were up to it. "We'll try to be as strong as possible and win all the duels," he said, also playing down the fact that it was his country's first evening match in South Africa. "We're professional footballers with experience of playing at this time in our leagues. It's not really a worry."
Kim added that the Koreans would try to press down the Nigerians' flanks as much as possible. "Our strikers and wingers are fast, and with their speed we can break down Nigeria. When they have the ball we'll press to regain the ball and attack."
Lee Young-Pyo, the left full-back who plays for Saudi club Al-Hilal, said the Koreans had done their homework. "We've prepared long enough for this game, the last in our group stage," Lee said. "We're not concentrating on calculating which team has how many points and what goal difference is.
"We'll go out there to give our best. We've spent a lot of time analysing Nigeria's tactics, and we have enough experience to know what we need to do."
Remarkably for a side that has lost its two opening games, the Super Eagles could still also qualify - if they were to rack up a good win in their first ever FIFA World Cup match against an Asian team, and Argentina beat Greece.