A lack of a finishing touch in front of goal has long been a problem for Korea Republic, and this year’s FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa has been no exception. Although they scored three times in their first two Group B matches, none of those goals came from the players who were expected to lead the Taeguk Warriors’ attack.
In their opening match against Greece, centre-back Lee Jung-Soo opened the scoring with a set-piece before midfielder Park Ji-Sung added the second with an opportunistic strike to seal a convincing victory. Right winger Lee Chung-Yong scored a similar goal in the following encounter with Argentina, although it was not enough to keep the South Koreans from suffering their worst FIFA World Cup defeat in 12 years.
In comparison, their strikers have not been so prolific. Park Chu-Young spurned a glorious opportunity to double the lead midway through the first half of the group opener against Greece, before netting an unfortunate own goal to give Argentina an early lead in the following match. His strike partner Yeom Ki-Hun, who usually plays on the left flank, also missed a crucial chance to draw level with the Argentinians when presented with an opportunity with only the goalkeeper to beat.
“Although our players fought well, we should have converted the chances when we were trailing 2-1 early in the second half,” coach Huh Jung-Moo lamented after the match. “We could have changed the flow of the game had Yeom scored at that moment.”
Despite the goal drought of his forwards, Huh seems to have few alternatives to solve the problem. Korea Republic’s all-time top scorer with three goals at the finals, Ahn Jung-Hwan has had to watch from the bench as captain Park Ji-Sung equalling his record. Lee Seung-Yeoul only made a fleeting three-minute substitute appearance against Greece, while Lee Dong-Gook is not fully fit after recovering from a thigh injury.
Although Lee Dong-Gook made an eagerly awaited return to the FIFA World Cup in the match with Argentina, it was too late for him to make an impact as Gonzalo Higuain had already completed a hat-trick just before Lee came off the bench with only nine minutes remaining. The Jeonbuk Motors striker had experienced exactly the same situation in his last appearance at the world finals, as a second-half substitute in a 5-0 drubbing by the Netherlands at France 1998.
It remains to be seen whether Huh will stick to the Park-Yeom partnership up front in the must-win match against Nigeria. But as both sides still have all to play for and goal difference might decide who would advance to the Round of 16, the aforementioned trio will be hoping to redeem themselves in what could prove to be their last chance in South Africa.