South Korea squeaks into round of 16
South Korea reached the second round of the World Cup by holding Nigeria to a 2-2 draw Tuesday in their final group game in Durban, South Africa.
Defender Lee Jung-soo and Park Chu-young scored for South Korea after Kalu Uche had given Nigeria the lead in the 12th minute. Ayegbeni Yakubu converted a 69th-minute penalty to draw Nigeria level again, but the Africans squandered a couple of good opportunities to score a winner.
"During the game, we conceded the first goal and that was a tough situation," South Korea coach Huh Jung-moo said. "But the players stayed cool and levelled the score."
Argentina won Group B by beating Greece 2-0 in the other match, meaning Nigeria would have advanced with a win despite losing their first two games. Argentina won all three games to finish with nine points, while South Korea had four points, Greece three and Nigeria one.
Nigeria coach Lars Lagerback was left ruing his team's inability to finish.
"I was disappointed about all the chances," Lagerback said. "The players have done really well. They worked hard over time."
The only other time the Koreans got beyond the group stage was when the team surged to the semifinals in 2002 on home soil as tournament co-host with Japan.
That stunning run, ended by a 1-0 loss to Germany, turned South Korea's Dutch coach Guus Hiddink into a national hero.
"Our goal was to reach the last 16. We succeeded in doing this for the first time away from home," South Korea captain Park Ji-sung said. "So I'm very happy we accomplished this in South Africa. All of the players know how important this is."
The Korean substitutes sprinted onto the field and hugged their teammates at the final whistle and danced in front of a small group of flag-waving fans.
South Korea had slightly more of the possession in the first half, but it was Nigeria that took the lead when Chidi Odiah beat two defenders on the right and sent in a low cross for Uche, who slipped in front of his marker Cha Du-ri to fire home from close range.
Uche nearly doubled the lead when his hard shot from outside the area hit the post. But amid the Nigerian pressure, Lee equalized in the 38th minute with his second goal of the tournament. Ki Sung-yong floated a free kick to the far post and Lee stooped to head the ball, missed it and stuck his right foot out to volley it past goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.
Park made it 2-1 just four minutes after the break when he curled a free kick around the wall and into the far corner of Enyeama's goal -- one of the few free kicks to produce a goal at this World Cup.
Five minutes later he nearly did it again, but his powerful free kick went just wide.
Yakubu missed a great chance to equalize in the 66th when he had an open goal but tapped the ball wide. But he made amends three minutes later and showed more composure in front of goal by slotting in a penalty after Kim Nam-il had fouled Chinedu Obasi.
Substitute Obafemi Martins came closest to snatching a victory for the Super Eagles when he ran onto a pass from Chinedu Obasi and chipped the ball over Jung only to see it drift just wide.
South Korea now plays Uruguay in the round of 16, while Argentina faces Mexico. Nigeria returns home winless and has not won a World Cup match since beating Bulgaria 1-0 in France in 1998.
They played well in losing 1-0 to Argentina and were a goal up against Greece before Sani Kaita's red card turned the tide and led to a 2-1 defeat.
South Korea beat Greece 2-0 and lost 4-1 to Argentina in its earlier matches. Its progress into the round of 16 came a night after North Korea was eliminated following a 7-0 thrashing by Portugal.