South Korea came into this match sitting second in the group despite being dismantled by Argentina 4-1 in their previous game, meanwhile Nigeria sat pointless (in both senses of the word) at the foot of the table and needed a series of mathematical miracles to occur in order to qualify. Although the game may have been billed as the understudy to the other match in this group it didn’t take long for it to spring into life. Nigeria opened the scoring after just 12 minutes when Chidi Odiah stormed down the right flank and squared the ball for Kala Uche who finished emphatically from 8 yards, sending the Nigerian fans into rapturous celebrations.
The African side look comfortable in the first half an hour, Yakubu working particularly hard to try and create opportunities, with goalscorer Uche rattling the post from 25 yards out. But 5 minutes before the half time whistle South Korea struck back, Chinedu Obasi conceded a free kick in a dangerous position when he chose to clothesline Lee Young-Pyo rather than tackle him. The ball was swung in and found Lee Jung-Soo at the back post and he stooped to tap the ball back across goal into the bottom corner. The Korean nearly impaling his own head with his right boot as indecision on whether to head or kick the ball almost had serious consequences. At the conclusion of the first half the sides went in level and the Nigerian fans continued to pray for their series of miracles.
The first chance of the second half fell to the South Koreans, again it was from a set piece, the Nigerians lack of discipline threatening to cost them dearly. Park Cho-Young hit a curling drive round the wall and past the despairing Vincent Enyeama in the Nigerian goal to give South Korea a 2-1 advantage and compound the misery of the Super Eagles fans. In a similar fashion to their game against Greece, defensive lapses of concentration and ill-discipline had cost them an early lead.
South Korea looked to press home their advantage and Park Chu-Young had a chance to put the game beyond doubt from Yeom Ki-Hun’s right-wing cross, but his shot was saved. Yakubu had a chance to level the scores minutes later but conspired to miss from a whole 3 yards out, leaving several commentators so stunned they fell from their seats in the gantry. The miss later crowned “The Worst Miss of All Time” by several pundits. Despite that abysmal attempt the striker had the chance to redeem himself almost instantly, Kim Nam-Il rugby tackling Obasi inside the area and Yakubu converted from 12 yards. Game on. Both sides were not going to settle for a point in the final stages and it showed on the pitch. Cha Du-Ri’s cross forcing Danny Shittu into a brave block to turn the ball behind, but nothing came of the resulting corner. At the other end, professional line-fluffer Obafemi Martins missed a guilt edged chance when he put his shot wide after the very impressive Obasi had slipped him in.
The Nigerians had their chances in the final 5 minutes to score a goal that would see them through in second place but they couldn’t find the vital touch. Victor Obinna nearly scoring a with a 20 yard screamer with just seconds left but his strike drifting just wide of the South Korean goal. It ended 2-2 and South Korea celebrated going through into the last 16 and a date with Uruguay, Nigeria by contrast physically distraught despite a valiant performance.
Match Statistics (Powered by Optajoke)
10 – Of the viewing public that tuned in to the World Cup coverage, only 10% chose to watch this game over Argentina v Greece. Remote.
104 –Kim-Jong Ill has employed 104 of his staff to help create the illusion that South Korea’s games are actually those of North Korea. Impression.
99 – Nigeria conceded a total of 99 free kicks within 30 yards of their goal during the game. Discipline.