When your first attempt at goal in the very first minute almost gets you a goal you've got to think that your going to have an easy time of it. Especially when your second attempt your score. It took Greece three minutes to get an early 1-0 lead against North Korea.
Kostatinos Katsouranis scored into a wide open net after Greece beat the North Korean offside trap. While Katsouranis got his name on the scoring sheet, Sotiris Kyriagkos staying onside on Georgios Karagounis pass allowed the Greeks to get off to a flying start.
Greece almost made it 2-0 in the 15 minute after Theofanis Gekas flick on hit the crossbar after a nice through ball by Katsouranis. That missed awakened the North Korean team and from that point on Greece goal was under attack.
Just two after Greece failed to increase their lead N.Korea to advantage of some poor Greek passing allowing the Koreans to get their first shot on net only to be blocked by a sprawling Sotiris Kyriagkos. A few minutes later North Korea equalized after the Greek defense gave a little to much space to Korean striker Tae-Se Jong. Jong unleashed a laser from right outside the box catching Michalis Sifakis a little off guard to even the score in the 24 minute
The Korean attack continued three minutes later forcing a nice save from Sifakis after Jong again found space in the Greek defense. Jong was one on one with the Sifakis and this time couldnt beat the goalie with a shot about 20 meters out. The woodwork will also lend a hand in the 29th minute on a free kick from Yong-Jo Hong after yet again some poor greek defense.
Joon would continue to pressure the Greek defense forcing yet another save in the 33rd by Sifakis and missing on his last attempted in the first half in th 42nd minute. The Greeks needed the break in the worse way as their defensive game plan didnt work in keeping Joon under control.
To start the second half coach Otto Rehhegal made several substitutions pairing two new strikers and changing two defenders to change the momentum of the game. The switch worked as Greece was able to score in the 49th minute as Karagounis free kick landed perfectly to Angelos Charisteas foot and was able to tap it in.
The lead was short lived as Jong who had an unstoppable first half ran down a long pass and easily disposed of Nikos Spyropoulos and went right at the greek goal. This time Jong went high and beat Alexandros Tzorvas from an acute angle with ease. It took North Korea only two minutes to even the score.
Greece would only threaten a couple more times with Karagounis missing wide in the 58th minute and Alexendros Tzolis one-timer in the 81st minute also went wide. Greece would keep the pressure up at the end of the game but couldnt find a shot to break the deadlock.
On the other hand the Koreans would keep the pressure up on the Greek defense but also missing chances to take the lead. Jong still kept eluding the Greek defenders and his attempt in the 73rd minute force a save from Tzorvas. Tzorvas came up with a nice save again ten minutes later to keep the deadlock.
The game would end 2-2 tie leaving a lot of questions for the Greeks to ponder before their last tune up game against Paraguay. The defense was terrible against Jong and facing teams with similar styles at the Cup in two weeks Greece will have their hands full.
Greece overall created enough chances for them to win this game. They also allowed way to many opportunities to the Koreans for them to win the game. Not something we normally see from the defensive squad. From an offensive view forwards Georgios Samaras, Dimitri Salpagidis and Theofanis Gekas created chances and moved well together in the first half. Second half subs Charisteas and Pantelis Kapetanos had set a couple of chances that should have met with better results.
The midfield play was up and down. Captain Georgios Karagounis continued his stellar play and assisted on Charisteas goal in the second half. Karagounis miss before his substitution was one of the few bright spots in the second half. Kostantinos Kastouranis played well at time but also had some several lapses in concentration. Missing several passes and turning the ball over is not what you want to see from your defensive midfielder. Alexander Tzolis might have had Greece best chance in the second half but his defense in the first half was horrendous. Poor marking of Jong in the midfield allowed one of Jong's first half chances. Miss communication between Tzolis and the defenders allowed for some nervous minutes in the first half. The performance tonight probably hurt his chances of starting in the World Cup.
Now the defense which was left dazed and confused by the J-Leagues best strikers. The starting four of Loukas Vyntra, Angelos Moras, Sotiris Kyriagkos and Nikos Spyropoulos struggled for the lasat 30 minutes of the first half. As a whole the group allowed way to many chances at goal. Most guilty were Spyropoulos who was left holding air in Jong's second goal, Vyntra for giving Jong too much space outside the penelty box. Moras and Kyriagkos size couldnt keep North Korea from getting around them and creating shot at either Sifakis or Tzorvas. Second half subs Seiteridis and Avraam Papadopoulos might not have allowed a goal but they couldnt stop Jong either.
Notes and Questions:
Sotiris Ninis didn't get into the game. The highly sought after midfielder has only a handful of first team duty under Rehhegal. Does he get anytime in the Cup after several veterans have not had good seasons with either their club teams?
Not on the bench was Vasilis Torosides as he struggles to regain his fitness after picking up an injury during the Greek Superleague Playoffs. He was greatly missed on the pitch.
Who will be the starting goalie for Greece? Tzorvas played well for Panathinaikos giving them their first championship in 6 years was in net only in the second half.
Who joins Kyriagkos in the back line for the Cup games?
With one more game before facing South Korea in the World Cup, Greece has a lot of problems they need to work out. Next game vs Paraguay.