As a Korea Republic supporter, I’ve literally been losing sleep over this match the last few days.
Before the competition started, I had predicted that Argentina would win the group and that second place would come down to this very match. Assuming that Argentina beat Greece, this is exactly the scenario that would come to place: Korea Republic advance with a win or a draw, Nigeria are through with a win.
Let us compare results so far.
Nigeria lost to Argentina by a 1:0 score. While Korea Republic lost by a 4:1 score, the scoreline does tell a bit of a lie. The game was closer than your typical three-goal result.
Korea Republic defeated Greece by a 2:0 score, and it very easily could’ve been 3:0 or more. On the other hand, Nigeria looked well on their way to matching Korea Republic’s result before an unfortunate red card crippled the Super Eagles and allowed Greece to squeak out a victory.
All reports seem to indicate that the two sides are very evenly matched.
Korea Republic are more technically talented in the midfield, especially with the absence of John Obi Mikel and now, the suspended Sani Kaita. This seemingly sets the advantage for Korea Republic. And while the Nigerian back line has holes, goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama has perhaps been the goalkeeper of the tournament so far and I fear that Korea Republic lack the finisher of the quality necessary to beat him. Of Korea Republic’s three goals scored so far in the tournament, one was from a set piece and the other two were the direct result of defender errors.
Korea Republic lack the sophisticated teamwork necessary to create chances up front and lone striker Park Chu Young has been known to let a few speculative shots fly. Against Enyeama, those will just be wasted efforts. [Update: Korea Republic will deploy in a 4-4-2 against Nigeria with Yeom Ki Hun joining Park up front. Korea Republic used a 4-4-2 in the victory over Greece, before switching to 4-2-3-1 against Argentina.]
Korea Republic hope to create their chances by moving men forward on blitz counterattacks. But that’s also their biggest weakness: defenders are sometimes a little slow returning to their line or a little sloppy with their marking. I don’t expect Nigeria to be as unforgiving as Argentina, but I don’t expect Nigeria to be quite as hapless as Greece either. A lot rides on the hands of goalie Jung Sung Ryong and he has proven before that he could step up to the task; with Jung and veteran Lee Woon Jae sharing the net-minding responsibilities, Korea Republic only allowed four goals during their eight qualifications matches.
Right now, I am fearing the worst — but I tend to panic. If the Super Eagles win, they would fly ahead of Korea Republic on goal differential and leave no permutation for the Taeguk Jeonsa to advance. All things considering, I would take my chances with a draw against Nigeria and hope that Argentina — who will be without Jonas Gutierrez, Gabriel Heinze, Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain and skipper Javier Mascherano — will come through with some help.
I keep looking to the bookmakers for some relief. Nigeria backers are getting 7/4 and Greece backers will get paid 5/1 for a win. The betting public — which hasn’t been that horrible so far — seem to be placing bets most heavily on NGA/KOR ending in a draw and Argentina finishing the group with nine points, a turn of events that would see Korea Republic through. But right now, that information brings little consolation.
I offer my “predictions” that appear to be a combination of actual expectation and optimistic thinking.
Nigeria 1:1 Korea Republic
Argentina 2:0 Greece
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Written by Eddie Kim