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Soccer Analysts Present Keys to Stopping Argentina

Posted June. 16, 2010 13:21,   


How to stop the world’s top soccer player Lionel Messi is the biggest task for South Korea ahead of its second World Cup Group B game against Argentina Thursday.

Keeping Messi in check will not guarantee victory for South Korea, which would be satisfied with a draw (one point). If Korea upsets the South Americans, a second-round berth in the tournament would be practically assured.

Argentina is a world powerhouse but not invincible. It had eight wins in the South American regional qualifiers but also lost six games. It scored 23 goals but allowed 20 for a goal difference of just three.

So how can South Korea beat the two-time World Cup champions?

○ Guard vs. early goals

South Korea must be vigilant early in the match as Argentina’s robust offense shines early in the first and second half in big games.

Of the 23 goals Argentina scored in World Cup qualifiers, nine came early in the first half -- three goals within the first 15 minutes of the first half and six within the first 15 of the second. It also scored the lone goal in its first Group B match against Nigeria in the sixth minute.

KBS color commentator Han Joon-hee said, “(South) Korea needs extra caution by focusing on defense early in the match. It must not be perplexed by its opponent’s speedy offense, keep its composure, and maintain its own pace in a stable fashion.”

If South Korea can effectively block Argentina’s offense through the 60th minute, it has a chance to win. Team coach Huh Jung-moo said, “If we can manage to block the Argentine offense through the halfway point of the second half, Argentina will be the one to feel a sense of urgency.”

In the qualifiers, Argentine players saw their focus significantly wane if they were not leading through the halfway point of the second half. They also struggled physically as well.

As shown in a humiliating 6-1 loss at Bolivia, Argentina is also weak at high altitudes. The venue of Thursday`s game is Johannesburg, which is 1,753 meters above sea level.

South Korean defender Cho Yong-hyung (Jeju United) said, “If we can change our tactics to offensive play in a surprise shift from the halfway point of the second half, we can deal a devastating blow to Argentina.”

○ Aggressively target sides

Argentina’s central defense is a virtually invincible bulwark. Defenders Martin Gaston Demichelis (Bayern Munich) and Walter Samuel (Inter Milan) have ample experience and power, while top-rated defending midfielder Javier Mascherano (Liverpool) backs up the defense with his dynamic moves.

When it comes to the sides, however, it is quite another story. Gabriel Heinze (Marseille) has ample experience but lags behind in speed and is slow to shift to defense.

If South Korean midfielder Lee Chung-yong (Bolton) can revive his offensive prowess, his team could gain an unexpectedly easy chance to score.

Also for Argentina, Jonas Gutierrez (Newcastle United) on the right side is skilled at dribbling and passing, but often fails to mark the opposing team’s striker on defense and allows crosses. His defense on the right showed loopholes on several occasions in qualifiers versus Brazil and Peru.

Nicolas Otamendi did not play against Nigeria but could be a wingback on the right side Thursday. He lacks experience, however.

SBS color commentator and former international Cha Bum-kun said, “If South Korea can reinforce its central defense while stepping up its offense with an aggressive offensive effort by Lee Chung-yong, Park Ji-sung (Manchester United), and Yeom Ki-hun (Suwon Samsung), it could create phenomenal success.”