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Set Pieces to Win or Lose Game for S. Korea

Posted June. 22, 2010 12:18,   


The national soccer team is focusing on set pieces to get past Nigeria in its final World Cup Group B game Tuesday in Durban, South Africa.

Players went to Princess Magogo Stadium upon arriving in Durban Monday. The winner of the game is most likley assured a second-round advance in the tournament.

The Taegeuk Warriors focused on defending against set pieces in their final practice. After warming up with light stretching and ball exercises, players held a 15-minute scrimmage before spending the rest of practice on set pieces.

○ Laughing and crying over set pieces

After South Korea’s crushing 4-1 loss to Argentina Thursday, team captain Park Ji-sung (Manchester United) said, “The critical factor in our loss was errors in our set piece defense.”

Lead striker Park Chu-young (AS Monaco), who scored an own goal off a free kick in the first half of the defeat, also said, “Because I made a mistake in a set piece, my team had a hard time.”

In contrast, the team beat Greece thanks to effective defense against set pieces. The Greeks’ biggest weapon was the set piece because of its many tall players, but the Taegeuk Warriors shut it down through excellent positioning and covering.

South Korea defended 10 of Greece’s 11 corner kicks and 10 of 14 free kicks. Defender Lee Jung-soo (Kashima Antlers) also scored a goal from a free kick to lay the groundwork for his team’s 2-0 win.

So the set piece is the factor that could determine South Korea’s fate. For this reason, coach Huh Jung-moo focused on refining set pieces by personally adjusting the defensive positions in Monday’s practice.

Repeatedly experimenting on offense and defense through virtual set piece situations, Huh agonized over finding the best solutions. After practice, he said, “The set piece is the critical element that determines flow early in the game.”

Ki Sung-yueng (Celtic), who is considered the team’s go-to kicker, also said, “Set pieces often decide a game in short matches that entail high tension,” adding, “I’ll play against Nigeria by banking on high-precision and concentrated kicks.”

○ Seeking loopholes through set pieces

So what will the South Korean defense do against Nigeria?

Daniel Shittu (Bolton, 191 centimeters) and Joseph Yobo (Everton, 188 centimeters) have big physiques and are powerful, but are known as weak in set pieces. They often miss feints by opposing players and are poor at prompt handling of the ball.

They failed to contain Argentine fullback Gabriel Heinze (Marseille) and allowed him to head in the winning goal off a corner kick in their 1-0 opening loss to the South Americans.

The Nigerians also lose their tempers easily and their physical play often results in fouls. If South Korea can effectively use these flaws against Nigeria early in the game, it could work to the Taegeuk Warriors’ favor.

In their set piece offense, the Nigerians display strong elasticity and flexible bodily motions that are intimidating. Their attackers and fullbacks are both good at tapping the ball.

In its first and second group games, Nigeria had four of its seven corner kicks and eight of 13 free kicks lead to shots. The problem is, however, that the team has no kicker exclusively dedicated to kicking.

The most likely candidate for Nigeria`s go-to kicker, the left-footed Taye Taiwo (Marseille), is also out with injury.