One goal not enough to tame Costa Rica

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One goal not enough to tame Costa Rica


Lee Dong-gook scored a meaningful goal against Costa Rica on Tuesday, but it wasn’t enough to save the Taegeuk Warriors, who lost 3-1. He showed his appreciation by waving to the fans gathered at Seoul World Cup Stadium, but the disappointment was visible on his face.

The match was meaningful to the 35-year-old Lee because it was probably his last chance to beat the strong Central American country. When he faced Costa Rica for the first time in 2000, the forward scored his first international goal, but the final score was a 2-2 draw. He also made substitute appearances against Costa Rica in 2002 and 2007, but failed to score, and the team lost the matches 1-3 and 0-1, respectively.

On Tuesday, after Korea allowed a goal by Costa Rican Celso Borges of AIK Stockholm in the 38th minute, Lee managed to equalize in the last minute of the first half. But Korea couldn’t keep the pace and allowed two more goals, one from Borges in the 48th and another in the 78th from defender Oscar Duarte of Club Brugge in the Belgian Pro League.

“We prepared well for a strong Costa Rica,” Lee said after the match. “I’m not happy for allowing goals, but I was satisfied by the process of making a goal.”

When asked about his goal ceremony, which looked like he was swinging a tennis racket, Lee said, “My daughter is learning tennis. Tennis and football are different fields but are both sports, so I wanted to show [my daughter] that I got a big hand doing my best.”

Costa Rica outplayed Korea in many ways. They were better in pressuring and counterattacks. Whenever a Korean player had the ball, two or three Costa Rican players surrounded him and cut him off, and once they had the ball, they took it toward the goal with neat and creative passes. The Central Americans also physically overwhelmed the Taegeuk Warriors.

In the 38th minute, Costa Rican striker Bryan Ruiz of Fulham in the Championship League received a long pass in the penalty area and dropped the ball into the danger zone. Borges rushed to the ball and kicked it into the net. In the second half, Ruiz again assisted Borges’ goal, delivering him the ball as he waited in front of the goalpost. Ruiz added another assist on the corner kick to Duarte’s header.

Lee’s goal, his 33rd in 103 international matches, was the only success in a myriad of missed chances. Kim Min-woo of Sagan Tosu of the J-League took a shot that bounced off the goalpost, and Swansea City’s midfielder Ki Sung-yueng found the back of the net near the end of the second half but was called offside.

“In general, the players were too gentle,” said Manager Uli Stielike after the match, his second leading Korea. “The attackers did not actively pressure Costa Rica, and defenders’ pressure wasn’t tight enough.”

Though Lee’s goal on Tuesday didn’t contribute to a win, he has scored the most goals this year of any striker in the K-League.

The national team has two A matches scheduled for next month against Jordan and Iran, and then flies to Australia to prepare for the AFC Asian Cup, to be held in Australia in January.


BY SONG JI-HOON, KIM JI-HAN [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]


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