Korea Republic meet winless Nigeria in their final Group B match on Tuesday in the knowledge that a win would seal their berth in the last 16 stage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.
The South Koreans, bidding to reach the second round for only the second time in eight FIFA World Cups, kicked off their group campaign here with a 2-0 win over Greece, but then crashed 4-1 to Argentina to stand 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, a fact not lost on coach Huh Jung-Moo. "The Nigeria game is now extremely important and it will decide if we reach the round of 16," Huh said. "We will analyse things and we will be thoroughly prepared for the match."
Remarkably for a side that has lost its two opening games, the Super Eagles could still also qualify in their first ever FIFA World Cup match against an Asian team - if it were to rack up a good win over South Korea and Argentina beat Greece. Nigeria coach Lars Lagerback said: "The positive thing is that we still have a chance of qualifying, although we need a helping hand from Argentina. We need a fresh start, and we'll do that by beating Korea Republic."
But captain Joseph Yobo was downbeat about Nigeria's chances of qualifying. "We've lost both matches and it looks like we won't make it to the next round, even if we win our last game. We're basically out of the tournament."
Nigeria's defeat continues a miserable run for the Super Eagles in which they have gone seven games without a win at FIFA World Cup finals - including six defeats - since their last victory in France 1998. South Korea, who are unbeaten against Nigeria - winning twice and drawing once, will be captained and led from the front by Manchester United's Park Ji-Sung.
Nigeria will include household names such as captain Nwankwo Kanu of Portsmouth as well as Everton pair Yakubu Aiyegbeni and Joseph Yobo, the latter having a key role in closing down the dangerous Korean wingers.