The last time Argentina and South Korea played each other, a defender Huh Jung-Moo had been given the very tough task of marking Diego Maradona. The year was 1986 and Argentina went on to beat the South Koreans 3-1 on their way to becoming World Cup winners. Now, 24-years on, the two men meet again, this time as managers of their respective national teams. Maradona would like it very much if Argentina can replicate the success of 1986 and Huh Jung-Moo sees it as his one and possibly his last shot, at trying to stop Diego. Diego Maradona doesn’t remember his last encounter with Huh Jung-Moo as being a very pleasant one accusing the South Korea manager of having played Taekowondo instead of football against him. “”Oh yes, I remember Huh Jung-Moo very well,” says the Argentine wryly.
Huh Jung-Moo is quick to counter the accusation saying, “If I had done taekwondo then I’m sure the referee would have pulled out a yellow card.” He obviously has forgotten that he had gone in the referee’s book. The game just like the manager’s battle is sure to be full of attacks and counter-attacks.
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Argentina opened their World Cup campaign against Nigeria and won 1-0. The scoreline however, does not do justice to the South Americans who controlled the game and had many chances. They could have won by 3 or 4 goals, had luck favoured them. Lionel Messi who has often been criticized for not turning up for his national team looked good in their last game and can be expected to put his name on the score sheet tonight. Maradona had gone with a very attacking line-up against Nigeria but today, he might be looking to tighten his defense with a 4-3-1-2 formation to keep out the South Koreans. Argentina will be without their veteran midfielder Juan Veron, who will be replaced by Maxi Rodriguez. Messi will most likely play in the space behind the two strikers Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain. It is tough to see this Argentina side lose today, albeit South Korea might make this game a much closer contest than many anticipate it to be. Argentina go into the game with 3 points and are sitting in second position in Group B. A win will almost assure them a place in the last 16, while a draw wouldn’t be completely terrible either, especially if the other two teams in the group draw their game.
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South Korea at the moment sit top of the Group B, level on points with Argentina but with a better goal difference courtesy their 2-0 win over Greece. They are an extremely organised team who exhibited their class and quality against the Europeans in a game where only one team actually played football. The South Korean’s played a 4-4-2 formation against Greece and impressed with their quick, midfield counter attacks. Today, however, Huh Jung-Moo might opt to play a bit more defensive 4-5-1 to keep the incredibly talented Argentina at bay. South Korea’s winning or more realistically drawing this match is dependent on their defenders led by Oh Beom Seok, Kim Hyung Il, Cho Yong Hyung and Lee Jung Soo. They will be looking to Park Ji-Sung to score another marvelous goal, which should the Manchester United player score, will make him the highest scoring Asian at the World Cup with 4 goals. Although, a win for South Korea will be very special, a draw wouldn’t be completely unacceptable. After all, Argentina are a more talented side while South Korea is definitely more organised.
A South Korean win however should not be completely ruled out, as they do have a history of out playing big sides, as they did in 2002 on their way to the World Cup Semi-Final. Their win against Greece, former European champions in their last game, must also have done wonders for the confidence of the South Korean players. One thing is for sure, South Korea definitely will not let Argentina over-awe them.
“They should be respected but we are going to win.” – Diego Maradona, Argentina manager
“In my experience, if you are too intimidated and focused on the opposition, you can’t really reach your potential, which is why I told my players to enjoy the game.” – Huh Jung-Moo, South Korea manager
Stars to Watch Out For
Argentina: Lionel Messi, Gabriel Heinze, Gonzalo Higuain
South Korea: Park Ji-Sung, Park Chu Young, Lee-Dong Gook
Argentina have won both their encounters against South Korea, including a 3-1 victory during the 1986 World Cup first round.
Only the current manager Diego Maradona (9) has delivered more assists than Juan Sebastián Verón (5), who is out injured for today’s match, for Argentina in the World Cup since 1966.
Only two of South Korea’s 24 World Cup finals goals have come before the 25th minute, with the second of those coming against Greece in their opening game of this tournament.