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How S. Korea Can Beat Greece in WC Opener

Posted May. 27, 2010 13:01,   


North Korean players, including star striker Jong Tae Se, say South Korea can beat Greece, which played the North to a 2-2 draw in Austria Wednesday.

South Korea will face Greece June 12 in its first World Cup Group B match in South Africa.

Nigeria, South Korea’s third opponent in Group B, played Saudi Arabia to a scoreless tie on the same day and is known to have a weak defense.

The Dong-A Ilbo has analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of the Greek and Nigerian national teams to assess the Taegeuk Warriors’ chances of advancing to the second round.

○ Exploit speed and agility

Jong, nicknamed the “people’s Wayne Rooney” and who plays for Kawasaki Frontale in Japan’s pro league, gave tips to South Korea after the draw with Greece in Altach, Austria. He scored both of the North’s goals in the game.

Based on Jong’s tips and the opinions of South Korean experts, South Korea can defeat Greece if it focuses on three elements.

○ Confuse the Greek defense through speedy play

Jong said, “As I played, I found that European players are clearly slow.” He attempted a long dribble towards the arch circle after receiving a free kick from Hong Yong Jo crossed from the left side of the penalty box area in the 23rd minute with Greece up 1-0.

Recognizing the sluggish motion of the Greek defense, Jong dribbled the ball and scored on a surprise shot using his speed and ability. He also tied the game in the 52nd minute.

The tall Greek defense includes Vangelis Moras (196 centimeters or 6-feet-5), Sotirios Kyrgiakos (193 centimeters or 6-feet-4), and Loukas Vyntra (184 centimeters or 6-feet-0). Their heights, however, meant slower mobility. The Greek defense was dismantled by the North’s agile strikers, including Jong, Hong and Mun In Guk.

Greece has a host of tall midfielders and strikers as well. Jong said, however, “I found it tough when going for headers, but felt better when jumping earlier than opposing players. Check the opponent’s play when jumping.”

Jong entered the Greek penalty area several times in playing cleverly despite the opponent`s height advantage and once twisting his body when receiving a long cross.

○ Watch out for set pieces

KBS soccer commentator Han Joon-hee, who called the 2-2 draw, said, “Greece showed impressive set plays by banking on its tall players. Notably, the accurate free kicks of attacking midfielder Giorgos Karagounis followed by Sotirios Kyrgiakos’ headers looked impressive.”

The Greeks scored twice on free kicks. In the second minute, Karagounis launched one from the left outer section of the arch circle that Kyrgiakos headed to Kostas Katsouranis, who shot the ball in the left section of the goalpost to score. In the 49th minute, Karagounis kicked the ball from the right outer section of the arch circle. Angelos Charisteas caught it and shot it right in front of the goal for a goal.

Han said, “This shows that South Korea must prepare and figure out how its defenders will block opponents’ moves in set pieces.”

○ Warning against overconfidence or negligence

South Korea coach Huh Jung-moo warned against a hasty conclusion, saying, “It’s premature to make a judgment. We shouldn’t assess Greece based on this match alone. Greek players were recently assembled. They played badly today but we must keep an eye on them. They’re apparently in a bad condition, but with time, they’ll change.”

Commentator Han said, “Obviously, Greece will look different in the World Cup. The team`s loose play as shown today is not a short-term issue, however, but a chronic problem. South Korea must exploit Greece’s weaknesses and thoroughly prepare itself for the match. Then, it can adequately beat the Greeks.”

yjongk@donga.com niceshin@donga.com