Korea Republic have the potential to overcome the high expectations of a nation and progress past Nigeria into the knock-out phase of the FIFA World Cup™, according to captain Park Ji-Sung. The Manchester United winger, who scored the goal that saw the South Koreans advance to the last 16 in the 2002 FIFA World Cup on home soil, insisted that his team-mates had enough experience to rise to the occasion in their final Group B match on Tuesday.
The east Asian side, 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 the standings. A victory over winless Nigeria would ensure them a place in the knock-out phase, but a draw would leave them relying on Argentina beating Greece. A defeat would mean a flight home to Seoul.
"I can't say there's no pressure. There are a lot of people with high expectations and even I expect us to get through to at least the round of 16," said Park. "We are more capable of overcoming this pressure and show our full potential on the pitch.
"This is not different from any other World Cup matches. We want to win all of them. This is our last match in our group phase so we don't want to miss any opportunities. What's most important is that there's going to be a lot of pressure but we have to play to our full potential, and we have to be confident."
He added: "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 said that Korea Republic would not be on the defensive, hinting that the gameplan might involve pressuring Nigeria into conceding an early goal. "Nigeria are in the most precarious situation in our group," he said. "The flow of the game could tilt in our favour if we were to take the lead, which could see Nigeria failing to play to their potential."
Coach Huh Jung-Moo was in bullish mood, revealing that plans were already afoot for Korea Republic's travel plans in the next round. "Our players are preparing for the round of 16 for the first time away from home. We're almost there," Huh said. "We'll be doing our utmost to get to the knock-out round, all schedules are set up for that.
"We will keep an eye on the other game but the most important thing is that we play a good game and get a good result. We're going to fight to score that first goal."