More World Cup heartbreak for Africa

2010-06-22 21:14

Nigeria 2

Korea Republic 2


If you were a betting man, you would put your house down for Yakubu

Aiyegbeni to put the ball in an empty net from about three metres out.


You would do the same for Obafemi Martins to score when he is

only left with a goalkeeper to beat from close range.

In this match, you would have lost two properties had you taken

such bets as mathematics and football proved once more that they are not the

most common bedfellows.

On the day, Nigeria became the second African team to bow out of

the 2010 Fifa World Cup having gone into the match with a mathematical chance of

making the 16.

The first was South Africa earlier in the day, thus leaving more

200 million African hearts broken. (This, based on statistics that Nigeria is

the most populous African nation with 154.7 million inhabitants while South

Africa has 48.7 million.)

There was little to tell between the two nations who are ranked 21

and 47 respectively, with Nigeria enjoying a better Fifa ranking.

Nigeria started with 11 foreign-based players – in fact the

entire 23-man squad that Swedish coach Lars Lagerback chose for this tournament,

is made up of players who play outside their country – while Korea had only

seven such players in their first 11.


Ecstasy

Nigeria meant business from the onset and it only took 12 minutes

for Kalu Uche to find the back of the net with a goal that sent the majority of

the fans to ecstasy.

Goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama who has been a pillar of strength for

the Super Eagles at the back, was booked 29 minutes into the game for a silly

foul on Korea’s most popular son, Manchester United’s Park Ji Sung who is also

his country’s captain.

Uche could easily have made it 2-0 for Nigeria when he let fly a

thunderous shot in the 36th minute only for the Jabulani ball to fly a few

centimetres to the right, thus ricocheting off the post to goalkeeper Jung Sung

Ryong’s relief.

Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi committed a cynical foul outside the left edge

of his 18 yard area and from the resultant free kick, the ball was floated into

the far post and Lee Jung Soo bundled it in via his leg in a clumsy attempt at

heading the ball in the 38th minute.

But they all count as long as it is not the arm or hand that is

used to propel the ball into the back of the net. As a result the score was

level one-all at half-time.

Nigerian defender Yusuf Ayila made his way into Portuguese referee

Olegario Benquerenca three minutes before the break.

Another trio of minutes after restart saw Park Chu Young, who plies

his trade at Monaco in the French Ligue 1, curl the ball around a poorly-formed

Nigerian wall from a free kick and beating Enyeama hands down to put Korea

Republic ahead for the first time in the match.


Heartbreak

Then came that dramatic and heartbreaking miss from Aiyegbeni in

the 67th minute. He, however, made amends a minute later when he scored from the

penalty spot to make the scoreboard read 2-2.

A minute later, he was pulled off for Victor Obinna.

Martins who had come on as a late substitute was sent through with

10 minutes remaining but pulled his shot wide of goal.

And so it was that the South Korean nation of some 50-million would

go to bed the more jovial when the sun finally sets in Asia.

 

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