The crowd at Seoul World Cup Stadium went wild on Wednesday evening -- well, a couple of times. The first was just before kick-off when Park Ji-sung, taking his seat somewhere in the gods, appeared on the giant video screens and gave a gentle wave. The second was on the post-match "Bon Voyage to Brazil" ceremony as the floodlights faded and the lasers took over.
Much of what happened in-between was forgettable as Tunisia played the part of party poopers perfectly, winning 1-0 thanks to a 44th minute goal from Zouhaier Dhaouadi. Korea huffed and puffed but never really looked like scoring. This was not a case of strikers missing good chances but a case of good chances just not being created at all.
Coach Hong Myung-bo was at pains to point out that there will be major improvements in the next couple of weeks. All hope it was just a case of the cobwebs being shaken off after a long European season. There is much to do before the opening game against Russia on June 17.
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There was always going to be a certain amount of rustiness. Four of the starting eleven have not played that much football in the past few weeks, sometimes months. Ki Seung-yeung missed the last few weeks of Sunderland's miraculous escape from relegation due to injury. In Seoul, he had his poorest game in the famous red shirt for quite some time and was uncharacteristically sloppy in possession. "We weren't at our best," he said after the game. "We know that we have to improve and we are confident that will happen in the next few weeks."
Captain Koo Ja-cheol was another disappointment but the Mainz man is also returning from injury while lone striker Park Chu-young was as anonymous on the pitch for his country as he has been for his club Arsenal for the past three seasons. Add in another underperformer Yun Suk-young, also short of game time at QPR and training time with Korea after only arriving home on Sunday, it was not a surprise that the team was not firing on all cylinders.
Son Heung-min and Lee Chung-yong gave were busy on the wings but ineffective and rarely broke through an opposition that had barely been given a second thought before kick-off. If nothing else, it ensures that Algeria, Korea's second opponent in Group H, will not be underestimated as was starting to happen, in the media at least.
If the attack is as toothless as Popeye, it lacked the character's strength elsewhere. The defence has long been an area of concern and once again, a lapse of concentration cost the Taeguk Warriors. Just before the break, the ball was given away just inside the home half, the backline was slow to react and Dhaouadi strolled into the area to shoot low past Jung Sung-ryeong in goal.
It could have been worse. Centre-back Hong Jeong-ho was stretchered off in the second half after a heavy tackle. His ankle didn't look good and given the fact that the captain of the 2012 Olympic team actually didn't make that tournament due to a broken leg, all are hoping that the knock is not too serious and while not yet confirmed, it looks as if the Augsburg defender will be fine for Brazil. The same can't be said of left-back Kim Jin-soo who has been replaced in the final 23 by Park Joo-ho of Mainz in Germany.
"We were not percent," admitted coach Hong. That much was obvious to anyone watching. Korea need to be a good deal closer to that figure when it all kicks off against Russia on June 17.