Alexei Lalas exclaimed after the game on Fox TV: “Nobody saw this coming. I mean nobody. And if someone did, I want to meet him.” Mr Lalas is an American former professional soccer player and current Fox Soccer analyst with a reported net worth of approximately $2 million.
The team that thrashed defending champion Germany with its high-priced stars 2-0 and ousted it so ignominiously from the World Cup in Russia are precisely a team of nobodies, who had already been eliminated from its group. Perhaps Mr Lalas should go to Korea.
South Korea played without its captain Ki Sung-yeung, its most experienced player and a pillar of the team, as well as defender Park Joo-ho due to injuries.
To confuse opponents, Manager Shin Tae-yong made his players wear different numbers on their shirts in practice to befuddle any watching scouts.
“We switched them around because we didn’t want to show our opponents everything and to try and confuse them,” Shin said. “They might know a few of our players, but it is very difficult for Westerners to distinguish between Asians and that’s why we did that.”
It seems the high-priced help on Fox TV was also confused or, we might say, trumped.
Despite having the majority of the ball against South Korea, the bigger, taller and more physical Germans created few clear-cut chances, although Mats Hummels headed over the bar on 87 minutes. Keeper Cho Hyun-woo saved six shots on goal and repeatedly jumped into the melee to claim dangerous balls in the box.
Known for its speed and pace, Korea played a fantastic, steady game, scoring its two goals in extra time. The pace – and the wild and incoherent desperation and indisciplined play of the Germans, especially in the second half – was unbelievable compared to the parallel Swedish-Mexican match. Mexico seemed to play with an almost casual indifference compared to their earlier scintillating games; Sweden with a determination to be masters of their own destiny – as they also showed when they played Germany, and not leave it up to others. All credit to them.
Son Heung-min sealed the victory with another injury-time goal on a splendid break; the transition attack caught the Germans flat-footed as goalkeeper and captain Manuel Neuer had moved far up the field into the Korean half to join a desperate, last-minute offensive rally to garner a needed draw. Son raced through on goal and placed the ball into an empty net after Neuer seemingly lost the ball.
Manager Shin said: “I feel great but at the same time I feel a little bit empty, so I feel a little bit ambivalent.
“Yesterday we said there was only a one per cent chance and so I told my players it really was a last-ditch effort for them and I told them that they had to fight until the end.
“Germany are the defending champions and number one in the Fifa Ranking, so I thought about what mistakes Germany might make, because they probably felt they would be able to beat us – that’s what everybody thought.
“I thought we could use that as a reverse strategy and that has really hit the nail on the head.”
Korea has become the first Asian team to have beaten Germany at the World Cup. In fact, they have become the first team from AFC to have scored against Germany in 24 years, since Germany beat Korea 3-2 in the 1994 World Cup.
Further, Germany’s defeat ensured that Mexico advances to the final 16, despite its 3-0 defeat by Sweden, which is positive for the Americas as Sweden’s advance is positive for Scandinavia. “The sad thing is,” Mark Rushton wrote me from Mexico in a short note, “Mexico didn’t return the favour. By losing to Sweden, the Koreans are pushed out of a spot.”
Germany belongs inside Europe. It is fitting that the defeat of Germany comes on the very day of the launching of new U.S. war games, RIMPAC (“Rim of the Pacific”) – the world’s largest international maneouvres in the Pacific and the South China Sea. It will be held for the 26th time between June 27 and August 2. Both Germany and Canada are participating. During RIMPAC 2016 German soldiers trained in “liberating” an island, which, according to the scenario, was held by the “Draco” militia. “Draco” is the Latin term for “dragon” – a symbol for China.
I fraternally salute the excellent football players of Asia, without forgetting, of course, those of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, who have done so much to spread the noble value of the sport as the world witnessed at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, and the unified Korean people whom you all represent with honour.
Congratulations to the Korean team and the Korean people!
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