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Taegeuk Warriors Set to Take on Argentina

Posted June. 18, 2010 02:06,   


The national soccer team is afraid of nobody after beating Greece in its first World Cup Group B game, but faces its toughest challenge of the tournament Thursday.

The Taegeuk Warriors face perennial favorite Argentina at Johannesburg Soccer City Stadium in a game crucial to advancing to the World Cup’s second round. On opening weekend, South Korea beat Greece, 2-0, and Argentina survived Nigeria, 1-0.

South Korea is 47th in the FIFA world rankings and two-time World Cup winner Argentina is seventh. The Latin Americans are filled with star players worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and like the huge gap in the world rankings, pose a huge barrier that the South Koreans have found difficult to overcome.

At the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, Argentina beat South Korea 3-1 in their first and only head-to-head game in the tournament. South Korea, however, has come a long way since then, finishing fourth in the 2002 World Cup by defeating Portugal, Italy and Spain.

Midfielder Park Ji-sung, who played a pivotal role in his team’s advance to the semifinals eight years ago, is now captain. Lead striker Park Chu-young and midfielders Lee Chung-yong and Ki Sung-yueng are also key players.

The game is also the second head-to-head competition between South Korea coach Huh Jung-moo and Argentine counterpart Diego Maradona. Huh covered the Argentine striker when their national teams clashed in the 1986 World Cup.

Huh is preparing for another historical match using communication and positive thinking as his leadership style. He expressed confidence of victory, saying, “David defeated Goliath.”

Captain Park added, “We’re going to play to win.”

The expected conditions on game day are considered unfavorable, however. Johannesburg has an altitude of 1,753 meters and the weather Thursday is expected to be cold.

If South Korea pulls off an upset and Greece wins or draws against Nigeria the same day, the Taegeuk Warriors will qualify for the second round. Even if South Korea loses, it has one more game against Nigeria.

Most, if not all, of South Korea’s 49 million people are expected to watch the game.