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From Hell to Heaven

Posted August. 18, 2004 22:00,   


The Korean Olympic soccer team now aims for the semifinals.

The Korean team was down by three goals to none, but it managed to tie the score 3-3 in seven dramatic minutes. In the middle of such drama was Cho Jae-jin (23, Shimizu). On August 18, the last match of Olympic men’s soccer preliminary Group A took place at Kaftanzoglio Stadium, where Korea and Mali drew 3-3. With a win, two draws, and no losses, Korea made its way to the next round. Korea will advance to the quarterfinals as the second place team of Group A because of goal differences with Mali, which has the same points as Korea.

The last time the Korean Olympic soccer team advanced to the quarterfinals was 56 years ago in the 1948 London Olympics.

Defeat seemed certain for Korea, which allowed goals in the 6th and 23rd minute of the first half and the 9th minute of the second half to a single Mali player - Ndiaye. Cho Jae-jin saved the day for the Korean team.

Cho headed Kim Dong-jin’s (Seoul FC) sharp pass for a goal in the 12th minute of the second half, and barely two minutes later, scored another goal by heading in Kim Dong-jin’s centering pass. From that point on, the Mali defense did everything to stop Cho, and in the 19th minute of the second half, they were so busy defending Cho that Mali defender Tamboura tried to clear Choi Sung-kuk’s pass, but it ended up in his team’s own goal.

Korean Olympic soccer team coach Kim Ho-gon was happy, “In this game I went from hell to heaven, and with the main striker Cho Jae-jin back scoring again, our team now can play with 100 percent in the quarterfinals and so on, with an organized offense and defense.”

Korea had scored three goals in the course of two matches – against Greece and Mexico – but one of those goals was shot into the opponents own net by one of its players, and the other two goals were long distance shots from midfielders Kim Dong-jin and Kim Jung-woo (Ulsan Hyundai), not goals produced by attackers.

Nevertheless, with the main scorer Cho back on track – Cho has scored nine goals after joining the Olympic team back in 2002, the most by any player – the prospects for Korea to advance to semifinals for the first time ever, or even winning a medal, are quite bright.

“I was very frustrated because I did not score in the previous games, but I have regained my confidence by scoring two goals which were possible because of my teammate’s great passes.” A determined Cho said, “Now I think I can score against any opponent. I will do my best in the quarterfinals.”

The Korean soccer team will face the leader of Group B on August 22 at 3:00 a.m. at Thessaloniki for the ticket to the semifinals.

Meanwhile in Group C, the Argentinean team, considered as the strongest team in this competition, beat Australia 1-0 and with a three game winning-streak, it advanced to the quarterfinals.

Jong-Koo Yang yjongk@donga.com