Super Eagles commit suicide and S. Korea sneak through

2010-06-23 00:00

NIGERIA joined Cameroon and hosts South Africa on the World Cup scrap heap last night, as they could only manage a 2-2- draw with the Korean Republic at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.

Korea’s point was enough to see them through, but it was a night of pain for one of Africa’s great hopes.

In a frantic first half, both the Koreans and Nigeria went for the jugular. It was a refreshing change to some of the dreary fare served up so far at this World Cup.

But with the reality of being knocked out now confronting those teams still in it, the football on offer is decidedly more attractive.

Lee Chung Yong tried to launch the match with a goal as early as the second minute, but he only ended up in a heap after colliding with Nigerian stopper Vincent Enyeama.

Ki Sung Yueng then blazed a shot over from the edge of the box, as Korea started like a team in with a bus to catch.

It was the Africans who struck first, though, as Kalu Uche snuck in ahead of a dozing Cha Du Ri in the 12th minute, after excellent work down the right by Chidi Odiah.

Uche was in the mood for sure, as he blazed a free-kick over on 22 minutes.

Park Chu Young then curled a Korean set-piece straight to Enyeama, as the game opened up to the delight of the Durban crowd.

The Koreans found space on the flanks as the half wore on, and it was only an immense, last-ditch tackle by Danny Shittu that prevented Korea drawing level on 26 minutes.

Chinedu Obasi then turned cleverly before a limp-looking shot squirmed its way to keeper Jung Sung Ryong on 30 minutes. But the Korean stopper somehow coughed it up, and had Nigerian captain Nwankwo Kanu been more alert, the lead could have been doubled.

Korea got the equaliser that their play deserved, when Lee Jung Soo stole in at the far post ahead of a ball-watching Rabiu Afolabi.

The second half was end to end, with both teams desperate for the points.

Korea got their noses in front on 49 minutes, as Chu Young’s free-kick was too slick for Enyeama.

Nigeria responded in the only way they could, throwing everything at Korea.

Chu Young almost made the game safe after 62 minutes, but Enyeama’s fine reflex save kept Nigeria interested.

As Kanu was replaced by the energetic Obafemi Martins, so Nigeria contrived to serve up drama befitting the finest Nollywood script.

Ayegbeni Yakubu shocked an entire stadium — and most of Africa, mind — with a miss that was as bad as it was memorable. From barely three metres out, with the goal gaping, the Everton marksman produced the miss of the year.

Heck, make it the miss of the decade.

Remarkably, he made amends just two minutes later. Kim Nam II brought down the persistent Obasi in the box, and Yakubu showed a great deal more composure to slot past Ryong and level matters at 2-2.

With 20 minutes left between them and elimination, the West Africans did everything but score.

Martins ran through in the 81st minute, but his deft chip over Ryong also failed to locate the empty net.

It was torture for the local crowd — and the hordes of Nigerians in the 62 000-strong mob — but Nigeria had their chances.

Victor Obinna flashed two pile-drivers just wide in the dying minutes, but it was yet more heartbreak for Africa on a day that saw South Africa also bow out.

The final whistle — and Argentina’s 2-0 win over Greece — brought joy unconfined to the Koreans.

The Nigerians, to a man, slunk to the ground in disbelief.

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