When South Korea faces Brazil at Old Trafford in Wednesday’s semifinal, football fans around the world will be watching to see whether they can provide yet another surprise.
“We will put out our best line up against Brazil,” Korea manager Hong Myung-bo said at a media conference in London, Tuesday. “It seems obvious that we are unfavorably positioned especially after the long match against Great Britain. However, momentum is high and we will bring the best we have for the upcoming game.”
Both teams came through tough tests in their respective quarterfinals against Britain and Honduras. But they ultimately proved they deserve the semifinal spots. With pre-tournament favorites such as Spain, Uruguay and Britain eliminated earlier than expected, few doubt Brazil will now dominate the competition. But few believed Korea would triumph over Team GB ahead of the game.
Wednesday’s match, kicking off at 3:45 a.m. here will likely be a showdown between the Brazilians’ phenomenal offense and Korea’s tight defense. The South American’s won their first four matches by scoring three times on average, led by top scorer Leandro Damiao with four goals and forward Neymar on three. Korea has reached the semifinals despite a lack of firepower by allowing only two goals in the past four fixtures.
“Even before I select the team, I always emphasize the importance of teamwork. If you are talking about individual players’ skills, there are plenty of other sides better than us. However, it is about how to play as a unified team,” Hong said. “So, we tried to stick with the strategy and the results have already surpassed my expectations. I think everyone plays their role in their position well.”
Korea has never won an Olympic football medal since its maiden appearance at the Summer Games in 1948 but Brazil also has bitter memories. The five-time World Cup champions have never topped the Olympic podium, winning just two silvers and two bronzes. Ahead of the crucial tie, former 2002 World Cup semifinalist Hong emphasized that there is more to pursue than just winning the match.
“We can’t always win every game. But it always feels great to win,” he said. “We will face Brazil with the modest but confident attitude that we have.”
Mexico will play Japan in the other semifinal on the same day and the winners will advance to Saturday’s final. <The Korea Times/Jung Min-ho>
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