Uche 12, Yakubu (Pen) 69
KOREA REPUBLIC 2
Lee Jung-Soo 38, Park Chu-Yong 49
Korea Republic battled to claim a draw with Nigeria at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban that was enough to qualify them from the group stage. Lee Jung-Soo and Park Chu-Young gave Korea the lead after Kalu Uche’s opener in a back-and-forth match, but Yakubu’s penalty equalised with 21 minutes left. Nigeria , though, wasted opportunities to get the win they needed to qualify.
Nigeria, bottom of the group prior to kick-off and the least likely team to be in the second-round, took an early lead against the run of play. Chidi Odiah beat two Korean defenders on the right wing before whipping a hopeful ball into the middle. Cha Du-Ri failed to deal with it, and Kalu Uche prodded the Africans into the lead. Nigeria’s unpredictable goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama almost cost his side the equaliser after coming out of his area and fouling Park Ji-Sung. He redeemed himself by saving Ki Sung-Yeung’s dangerous free-kick.
Uche almost scored a second from 25 yards but was denied by the post, and Korea responded with the equaliser. From a set-piece, centre-back Lee Jung-Soo somehow found the net with a combination of his head and knee.
Four minutes into the second half Korea completed their comeback, when Park Chu-Young curled a free-kick around the wall and into the bottom corner from the edge of the area. The Super Eagles refused to be beaten, though, and Yakubu equalised from the penalty spot after missing an open goal minutes earlier.
Obafemi Martins and Yakubu were particularly at fault for not scoring a winner as Nigeria became desperate. With Argentina beating Greece in the group’s other match, Nigeria needed a winner to go through, but wasted several late half-chances. Korea hung on to claim second-place and a clash with Uruguay in the knock-out phase.
Korea will consider themselves fortunate to be in the second-round after their usually sturdy defence wobbled against the Africans. Despite creating several chances, Nigeria wasted them and couldn’t get the three points they required. Another African team subsequently crashes out in the first African World Cup.
In the first half Nigeria showed their attacking ability that has perhaps been lacking in their previous two matches. The introduction of the evergreen Nwankwo Kanu by manager Lars Lagerback meant that Nigeria had a focal point, able to hold up the ball. The likes of Yakubu Aiyegbeni and Kalu Uche certainly benefitted from Kanu’s touch and passing, and South Korea struggled to take the ball off the tall striker.
Chidi Odiah, Nigeria’s right-back, was particularly impressive. Comfortable defending or running down the right flank with the ball, it was Odiah who created Nigeria’s opening goal. The lack of concentration from South Korea’s back four that allowed Uche to score was a feature of their play this evening. To their credit the usually organised Koreans were searching for all three points, to the detriment of their back four.
Nigeria had their own worries at the back. Enyeama caught the eye with a brilliant display in the Super Eagles’ first match against Argentina, before marring his new reputation with a terrible mistake against Greece. At one point this evening, the Jekyll and Hyde goalkeeper bizarrely ran out of his area to challenge Park Ji-Sung for a loose ball, and fouled him. After being booked and giving away a dangerous free-kick, he typically saved the resulting opportunity. Enyeama lacked confidence throughout the match, and the free-kick he conceded was soft. As a result, he didn’t inspire confidence into a shaky-looking defence, which was hindered further by Joseph Yobo’s substitution at half-time due to injury.
Nigeria struggled all night partly due to a lack of concentration in all areas of the pitch. Many times Kanu won the ball and laid it off to a runner who wasn’t prepared, or mis-controlled the ball. Yakubu typified this when he was dispossessed whilst one-on-one with the goalkeeper, when he should have just squared the ball to his team-mate. Yakubu will have been relieved to get his name on the score-sheet after missing an open goal soon after.
South Korea were their usual, organised selves. Without much creativity but with energy in abundance, Korea’s undoing was also their concentration lapses. Kim Nam-Il was brought on to defend a 2-1 lead, but his first involvement was to give away an unnecessary penalty. Korea were let off several times by the wastefulness of Nigeria’s forwards.
Korea’s second-round clash with Uruguay should now be an intriguing contest. If they are to recapture their incredible World Cup run on home turf in 2002, Korea will have to cut out the defensive errors that prevented them from taking all three points this evening with Nigeria.
Nigeria – Enyeama, Yobo (Echiejile 46), Afolabi, Shittu, Odiah, Uche, Yussuf, Etuhu, Kanu (Martins 52), Yakubu (Obinna 70), Obasi Ogbuke
South Korea – Jung Sung-Ryong, Cho Yong-Hyung, Lee Young-Pyo, Lee Jung-Soo, Cha Du-Ri, Park Ji-Sung, Kim Jung-Woo, Ki Sung-Yeung (Kim Jae-Sung 86), Lee Chung-Yong, Park Chu-Young, Yeom Ki-Hun (Kim Nam-Il 63)