Manchester United’s Park Ji-Sung scored as South Korea opened its World Cup programme with a comprehensive win over Greece in Port Elizabeth. Recalling the effervescent approach the Koreans took on home soil in 2002, Huh Jung-Moo’s side were energetic, lively and fully deserved the 2-0 win over the Euro 2004 champions.
Korea’s performance was in stark contrast to a poor England display in Rustenburg as Wayne Rooney’s side embarrassingly drew with the USA, where there were very few positives for manager Fabio Capello.
Rooney’s subdued display – save for a long-range second half strike – summed up England’s night in which few parts of Capello’s outfit met the standards expected against an obdurate United States. Those of a crueller disposition might add that his side rarely does.
For once though a United player will not become the national scapegoat for English failure – for now at least – with goalkeeper Robert Green’s first-half howler in the Massimo Taibi category for catastrophic errors.
While England dominated possession and created the better chances, 14th ranked USA has burst Capello’s bubble far earlier in the tournament than many expected. Lucky then that Algeria and Slovenia will pose far fewer challenges than Bob Bradley’s outfit.
Meanwhile in Port Elizabeth Park, who is Korea’s captain for the tournament, scored his side’s second as Jung-Moo’s as the 2002 semi-finalists dominated the group B match against a remarkably impotent Greece. With tough fixtures Argentina and Nigeria to come, Korea’s win offers the Asian side an outside chance of qualifying for the last 16.
Park capitalised on a fatal defensive area before characteristically driving into the box and slotting past Kostas Chalkias for the killer goal.
“It’s a great honour and pleasure for me to have been chosen,” said Park of his selection as Korea’s captain.
“We had a good result in our first game, so I am very happy. Since this is the first World Cup which is being held in Africa, I am very happy that we managed to win this game.”
“Personally, I was very honoured to score, but ultimately, it comes down to the team winning, and I am very happy that I managed to contribute to the team’s victory.”
Scheduled to meet first or second place in group A if the side qualifies, Park rightly pinpoints the match against Argentina in five days time as the fixture that will decide Korea’s fate in South Africa this summer.
“Argentina is, of course, the strongest team in our group and people are saying they could make the final,” Park added.
“Before the World Cup, we played a friendly against Spain and we thought about Argentina as we were playing that game.”
“Of course, there is a lot of difference between the two teams, but the unexpected can happen in this World Cup, and that is what we are looking to do.”
The Korean’s dynamism contrasts with England’s rigid 4-4-2 that neither draws the best out of Rooney or plays to the squad’s strength in midfield. Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, who failed to gel in the centre of midfield once again, will surely not play together again this tournament.
Although the latter scored, the axis with the Chelsea midfielder has rarely worked and there is little reason to believe Gareth Barry will not return the moment he is match fit.
In the meantime Capello might think about getting the best out of both Rooney and the team by deploying the United striker alone and bringing additional bodies into midfield.
Yes, apparently Emile Heskey does count as a striker partner.