South Korea and Greece open Group B hostilities today with an intriguing clash of styles in store.
Speed and astute tactical awareness are the calling cards of a Korean side that tore up the World Cup formbook when making it through to the semi-finals in 2002.
Greece, who also turned soccer’s natural order on its head to win Euro 2004, will be relying on their height and set-piece superiority.
South Korea’s splendid showing on home turf eight years ago has inevitably led to the cranking up of expectations from their supporters, expectations that Celtic midfielder Ki Sung-yueng has tried to dampen.
“Since Korea got to the semi-final in 2002, many people expect the same result,” he said. “I was in Australia at the time, I was 13 and just a fan then. No one in Korea expected the national team to go to the semi-final so now the expectations are too much.”
“But we will try our best and our squad is getting stronger. If we try our best we can qualify for the group stage and then who knows, we could maybe go onto the quarter-final,” he said.
Greece came crashing down to earth after Euro 2004.
Otto Rehhagel’s side failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup and then put up a limp defense of their European crown in 2008.
After a wobbly start to qualifying for South Africa they hit form and sealed their ticket with a notable play-off success over Ukraine.
They, like their Asian opponents, are desperate to emerge from this fixture with three points to have a chance of joining expected Group B winners Argentina in the last 16.
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