It's World Cup time and all across South Korea you can feel the excitement. Everyone from small children to old men can be seen sporting one of the myriad of World Cup shirts to grace store shelves over the last few weeks.
Whether they are more excited for football or for National pride is all a moot point now as the Koreans will soon began their World Cup campaign against Greece.
Fans will certainly be out in mass for Saturday's kickoff. Whether they are attending one of the giant outdoor celebrations in Seoul or watching from their neighborhood restaurant, the 8:30pm local time start time will ensure the captive attention of the entire country.
Entering play, South Korea would seem to have an uphill battle to securing a spot in the second round. After all, their are ranked significantly lower than the other three teams in Group B, Argentina (4), Greece (13), and Nigeria (21). However, despite being ranked 47th in the World, many consider South Korea's chances to be relatively good.
Their first match will be against Greece and would seem to be a very critical game for the Red Devils. After all, with Argentina waiting in the wings, a loss to the European nation would seem to put South Korea's hopes of glory on life support after just one match.
Against the superb defense of Greece in game one, the key player will likely be forward Park Chu-Young, who plays his club football for Monaco. Park is a creative goal scorer who should keep the Greek defense on their toes. If he can find a way to put the ball in the back of the net, the Koreans have a great chance of winning the match, seeing as they have yet to lose a game in which Park scores.
I see South Korea squeaking out a 1-0 victory against Greece in their opening match of the tournament.
In their second game, the South Korean side will face the mighty Argentina. Despite coming into the World Cup after an underwhelming qualifying campaign, there is no underestimating the fourth ranked team in the World. Behind World Cup legend, Maradona, Argentina should be a force to be reckoned with during the tournament. South Korean's will pray that they do not enter the game needing any points.
The key player for this match will be mid-fielder Park Ji-Sung. The South Korean captain plays his club football for Manchester United and has proven to one of the, if not the best, player in South Korean history. He will need to spread the Argentinian defense for the Koreans to have any chance of victory against the South Americans.
While the South Korean's should provide stiff competition, my money is on Argentina taking out the Red Devils by a score of 2-1.
Ultimately, it will be Nigeria who will stand in the way of South Korea and a second round appearance in 2010. The 21st ranked Nigerians will likely be itching for a shot in the next round with the World Cup held on their own continent, and this game may decide the second spot from Group B.
The main weakness for the Super Eagles is a well documented hole in mid-field and it will be up to Captain Park Ji-Sung to spread out the mid-field for the South Koreans and allow their underrated defense to hold the Nigerians.
In my opinion, this is another very winable game for South Korea and I see them winning this game 2-1 and advancing to the second round.
Honestly, it was lucky for the South Koreans to get drawn into Group B, and it provides two very winable games for the 47th ranked team in the World.
Their future in the 2010 World Cup will depend greatly on gaining at least a point, if not more, against Greece on Saturday night.
If they can do this, I wouldn't want to be the one betting against the Red Devils.
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