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Writing New History in Athens by Beating Greece

Posted August. 03, 2004 22:04,   


A big clash between Korean and Greek mythology: this will be the Athens Olympics soccer match between Korea and Greece, both from Group A, that will occur on August 12, 2:30 a.m. (Korean time) at Kaftanzogli Stadium, Thessaloniki.

It is expected that the world will be interested in this match, which takes place prior to the opening ceremony, because the battle will be between the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup semifinalist Korea and the Euro 2004 champion and hosting team Greece.

When Korea was assigned to Group A along with Mexico, Mali, and Greece, it was expected to go through the group stage without great difficulty and reach the quarterfinals. The situation has now changed –-with Greece shockingly winning Euro 2004, Mexico reaching the Olympic Games for the ninth time, and Mali beating 2000 Sydney Olympic soccer champions Cameroon and making it to the Olympics – unfavorable towards the Korean Olympic team.

Although only striker Dimitrios Papadopoulos played for the Greek team that won the Euro 2004, most of the 22 players play for prestigious professional Greek soccer teams and are expected to be as skillful as the national team members.

In response, Korea has summoned Yoo Sang-chul (Yokohama Marinos), Kim Nam-il (Chunnam Dragons), and Lee Chun-soo (Real Sociedad), all of whom were crucial to Korea reaching the semifinals in 2002.

Korea and Greece share a similar strategy of strongly pressuring the opposition team’s offense with their strong stamina and scoring by mounting fast counterattacks. Hence, the winner of this match will be decided based on which team is more focused and more confident.

Korean Olympic soccer team coach Kim Ho-gon said, “In order to reach the quarterfinals, the first game with Greece is the most important. We will maximize our strength through practice games with the French team in Paris.”

In the Olympic tournament, the 16 teams that passed regional qualifications are divided into four groups and go through a group stage. Afterwards, the teams that place first and second from each group advance on to the quarterfinals and so on. The favorites of this tournament are traditional soccer powerhouses such as Italy in Group B, Argentina in Group C, and Portugal in Group D, as well as Korea, Greece, Paraguay, Serbia-Montenegro, and Morocco.

Portugal wants to win the gold medal with a roster including rising star Cristiano Ronaldo, Tiago, Helder Postiga, and Jose Moreira, who all took part on the Portuguese squad that went to the Euro 2004 finals. While Italy, having won the under-21 European Football Tournament five times, has summoned skillful AC Milan midfielder Andrea Pirlo, Parma defender Matteo Ferrari, and AS Roma goalkeeper Ivan Pelizzoli to its Olympic team.

Argentina on its part has the national squad’s striker Javier Saviola and Roberto Ayala, among other stars, on its roster.

Soon-Il Kwon stt77@donga.com