South beats North for 1st time in 15 years
Having tied the North in their past five meetings, the South finally manages to pull ahead -by one goal.
|South Korean players crowd Kim Chi-woo after his game-winning goal on Wednesday night. South Korea defeated North Korea 1-0 in the match at the Seoul World Cup Stadium. [YONHAP]|
It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but South Korean fans are satisfied nonetheless.
With a 1-0 victory on home ground Wednesday night, South Korea now sits atop Group B in the final qualifying leg of the 2010 World Cup, with three games remaining.
In only the second match sanctioned by FIFA between the two countries on South Korean soil, the North Koreans stuck to their game plan and did it well. South Korean forwards and midfielders had a difficult time penetrating the North Korean defense and in the few occasions that they did, the players could not seal the deal. The game seemed to be headed to another tie, as had been the case for the past five meetings. It was also the first victory for the South over North Korea in 15 years, since a 1994 World Cup qualifier in October 1993. The North last beat the South in October 1990 in Pyongyang.
The lone goal of the game did not come from star striker Lee Keun-ho or team captain Park Ji-sung, but from defensive midfielder and substitute Kim Chi-woo, who had also scored in the friendly match against Iraq on March 28.
“A versatile and skilled player like Kim Chi-woo was well suited for a defensive North Korean team. I substituted him into the game especially for his free kicks,” said team manager Huh Jung-moo.
The 25-year-old’s left-footed free kick found the back of the net at the 88th minute. Kim started his K-League career in 2004 with Incheon United and moved onto the Chunnam Dragons for a year starting in 2007. He currently plays for FC Seoul. In 122 K-League games, he has 10 goals and 11 assists.
When critics jumped on Huh Jung-moo for selecting the young midfielder to the national team in the past, he praised Kim’s potential.
“Kim’s skills and knowledge of the game should not be taken lightly. You just wait and see. I see a lot of similarities between Kim and Park Ji-sung,” Huh said after a previous match against North Korea.
As Huh has attested, Kim is a technician. His left foot is accurate and powerful enough to be used by the national team on free kicks from the right side of the pitch. He’s also versatile enough to handle several positions. He is able to play the defensive role as a fullback as well as doing his part as a forward or midfielder. Kim made his international debut at the 2006 Doha Asian Games and has two goals in 21 games.
Leading up to the game, Huh had stressed the importance of taking advantage of free and corner kicks against the defensive North Korean team, and his intuition paid off. He had Park Chu-young, Ki Sung-yong and Kim Chi-woo extensively practice their free kicks in practices leading up to the game.
Soon after the start of the second half, North Korean forward Jeong Dae-sae’s header was blocked by the South’s goalkeeper, Lee Woon-jae. The replay seemed to show the ball crossing the line as Lee swatted it away. The entire ball must be completely over the line in order for the goal to count and the official from Oman nor his linesmen seemed to be in position to clearly judge the goal.
“The ball crossed the line but the officials ignored it. I’ve never seen anything like this in a game,” said the North’s manager, Kim Jong-hun.
“My body was positioned inside the net but my hands were located outside the line. The camera angles can be deceiving. I came home and watched the replays and it wasn’t a goal,” said Lee Won-jae in a phone interview with Ilgan Sports.
It has also been revealed that the North Koreans filed a formal request prior to the match for the contest to be canceled and moved to a neutral site at a later date. The reason given was that North Korean forward Jeong Dae-sae and two goalkeepers, Ri Myong-guk and Kim Myong-gil, were unfit to play due to food poisoning from the food at their hotel.
South Korean officials took the matter to the Asian Football Confederation and FIFA officials, who found no reason to cancel the game. A medical checkup by South Korean physicians revealed the players were not in serious condition.
According to professor Kang Chul-in of the Samsung Medical Clinic in Seoul, an athlete suffering from severe food poisoning would not have been able to play in the game last night. He added that a change of scenery can bring about symptoms resembling those of food poisoning.
By Jason Kim [email@example.com]