Great Britain vs. South Korea: 6 Things We Learned from Olympic Quarterfinal
What a match! South Korea beat Team Great Britain in the quarterfinals of the 2012 London Games and will now face Brazil in the semifinals.
It was another case of heartbreak for Great Britain while South Korea's exhaustion was replaced with ecstasy.
So what did we learn?
After 120 minutes of exciting football, we saw the best and worst that both teams have to offer. We were witness to the ebb and flow of Olympic football and can now review the match in full.
South Korea will yet again be underdogs against the Brazilians, but first, let's discuss six things we learned in their match against Great Britain.
South Korea Were Deserved Winners
It may have taken a penalty shootout to separate the two teams, but South Korea was the better team even after regular time.
The first half belonged to the Republic. A more clinical team would have gone into the half with two or three goals.
They continued to create chances and got around Britain's defense in the air as well as on the ground.
The only two chances Great Britain were able to create were penalty chances. Other than those two moments, opportunities were scarce.
The second half was much more balanced and the Brits looked more fit in extra time, but South Korea's disciplined defense never broke.
It was a history win for the South Koreans and a fair victory.
Lee Beom-Young Has Heart
I can only imagine the emotions Lee Beom-Young was feeling as he was told to warm up.
Surely when he woke up that morning, he could not have expected such a turn of events and such pressure to be laid on his shoulders.
After watching Jung Sung-Ryong collide with Micah Richards, fans looked on with worry as it was unclear whether he could continue.
After a few minutes trying to shake it off, it became clear that Korea's No. 1 could not play through his pain.
Lee would now need to lead his defense without warming up and the game tied at one goal apiece.
If he conceded, an entire nation would wonder 'what if'. But if he could somehow keep the Brits out of goal long enough to give his team a chance, he could become a hero.
In the end, a hero he did become as he blocked Daniel Sturridge's penalty kick and sent his team to face Brazil.
He did not have a perfect match and will not start the semifinal match, but when his team and nation needed him, Lee showed great courage and heart to perform as he did.
Daniel Sturridge Is Not the Villain
It did not take long for the British tabloids to find their target. As is standard for the media, the villain has been unfairly named.
Almost immediately after his penalty miss, Daniel Sturridge became targeted as the cause of Great Britain's destruction.
The previous four players had converted their chances, but the Chelsea youngster had his PK blocked and Ki Sung-Yong gave his team the win.
It is fair to question the stutter-step, but Sturridge is not the reason Great Britain lost. In fact, in the second half, Sturridge was one of the hardest-working and best players on the pitch.
He struggled to find room behind the defense in the first half, but it was Sturridge who led to South Korea's second penalty being given.
It was not Sturridge who allowed so many shots on goal. It was not Sturridge who failed to create chances.
It was not Sturridge who missed the second penalty in the first half—or wrongly asked Ramsey to take a second.
Speaking of those penalties...
The Penalties Were Correctly Called
It was a bit unfair that the only real chances allowed by the Koreans in the first half were penalties.
The defense had not given up a shot on goal, and the midfield was incredible as they pressed Britain's midfield relentlessly.
While I will not join in with those who say the refs had a home-field bias, I can admit that the first penalty was a bit soft.
Yes, it hit a player's elbow, but it hit the bottom side of a sliding player. I can understand feeling a bit done in by that call. However, it was still the right call as it did, in fact, hit the arm of a Korean player.
The second call was less controversial. There is a fair argument that Sturridge had no chance of reaching the pass if he hadn't been fouled, but he was still fouled.
It doesn't matter that the pass was poor. What matters is that there was a boot at Sturridge's waist while he was in the box.
Whether that kick to the waist hindered Sturridge's ability to bring the ball down is debatable, but it being a foul is less so.
At least one penalty was soft, but both were fair.
History Is a Fickle Friend... but a Consistent One
Oh how easily fate and history seem to switch sides. Like an indecisive child in a candy store, history chooses victors seemingly at random.
Going into the match, South Korea had never made the semifinals of an Olympic tournament. No Asian team had ever won a medal.
History had been in Great Britain's favor... but then the whistle blew and a penalty shootout began.
Despite all the preparations made by Stuart Pearce, his English players could not escape history.
Some of us joked that no Welsh team had ever lost a major penalty shootout, but the laughing ceased as soon as the match ended with yet another Englishman labeled a choker.
When it comes to shootouts, England's past is littered with big moments capped by bigger failures.
The nation still struggles to put Chris Waddles 1990 World Cup behind them. Images of David Beckham at Euro 2004 still lingers in the minds of many.
The 2006 World Cup exit was the latest failure of English shootouts. Now Daniel Sturridge has etched his own place in English footballing history.
It may be unfair to him, but history will not remember unjust blame—it will remember yet another chance at glory missed due to a failed penalty shootout.
South Korea Can Beat Brazil
Make no mistake, Brazil is still the heavy favorite in the 2012 Games. Any opponent will struggle against the mighty South Americans.
But South Korea has shown they are disciplined enough to beat anyone. They will prove a tough opponent for the Brazilians and their world-class attack.
South Korea are proof that having more talent does not always mean being the better team—something the Brazilians can be criticized of at the other end of the spectrum.
A lot of improvements are needed from the Koreans to have a chance at gold. The Koreans have only won a single match in regular time so far.
Brazil's biggest weakness is at keeper so breaking the South Americans down is not impossible. Finishing needs to improve and more chances need to be taken.
The defense has been strong and tight so far, but they have not been tested like this before. In reality, there may not be a more potent attack in all of football than the one Brazil boasts at the Olympic Games.
South Korea will enter Manchester as underdogs, but a victory against another tournament favorite is possible.
If they can succeed in knocking out one of the giants of football, the Koreans will be 90 minutes away from Olympic gold. In the world of football, far more bizarre things have happened.