South Korea, one of the most successful international football teams in Asia, will be looking for its first win at the 2010 FIFA World Cup this afternoon when it meets Greece in the opening match in Group B. The East Asians are in the same group with Argentina, Nigeria and Greece.
South Korea has qualified for its eighth World Cup final tournament and became the first and only Asian team to reach the semi-finals, doing so when it co-hosted the 2002 World Cup with Japan. Greece, meanwhile, has not featured in the tournament since its debut appearance in 1994, when they endured a dreadful campaign in the United States.
Coach Huh Jung-Moo has been working on ways to overturn their opponents’ height advantage ahead of the clash at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. With their tall players, the 2004 European champions can minimize their risk and try to score from dead-ball situations.
The Koreans are likely to go for the 4-4-2 formation, with Manchester United’s Park Ji-Sung holding a key midfield role. Bolton Wanderers’ Lee Chung-Yong is expected to join Park at the heart of the pitch, who would try to exploit Sotiros Kyrgiakos, who drew criticism for his awkward performances in central defense for Liverpool this season.
“We can’t say that we are stronger than Greece but based on our performance so far, we are good enough to be the winners,” the Korea Times quoted team captain Park as saying.
Although this will be the first time these two teams have met at the World Cup, there have been two previous friendly encounters between the two nations. The Tigers of Asia defeated the Europeans 1-0 in 2007, following 1-1 stalemate in 2006.
“Countries like South Korea have great team spirit and plenty of passion,” Greek coach Otto Rehhagel, told reporters. “[But] We have no reason to fear South Korea and we won’t disappoint the Greek people.”
The match kicks-off at 13:30 local time (7:30 a.m. ET).
UPDATE: South Korea defeated Greece 2-0 in the Group B opener, thanks to goals from Kashima Antlers’ Lee Jung-Soo and Manchester United’s Park Ji-Sung.