Wednesday, October 15, 2008

WC Qualifier: Korea Wins 4 - 1

I finally attended my first soccer game tonight, pretty much on the spur of the moment--I read in the news this morning that Korea's national team was playing UAE at 8 PM tonight at Seoul's World Cup Stadium. That's only three stops north of Hapjeong on line 6, a quick jaunt.

I went alone since there was no time to coordinate with others, and I wanted to see this game specifically, since it's the only sure win in Korea's new qualifying group (which I blogged about here.) After my only class of the day, fifth period, and a long talk with Miss Cho (which I can't say I really minded), I came home, went to the fitness center, then showered and left. I arrived at about six, and explored the Stadium area a bit: there's a park, a giant HomeEver (Korea's Target), a massive food court, and a cineplex (whose website points out CGV Sangam is the first movie theatre inside a stadium in Korea, and represents the prowess of Korea. Whatever that means.) I was looking for a red Korea team cap, but never did find one! Whazzup wi' dat?

Blurry pic of outside WC Stadium
Figuring that with all that stuff on levels 1 and 2, the food court inside the stadium has got to be pretty damn good, I did not eat. This brings me to my two big gripes: 1) the food inside the actual stadium (once you rendered your ticket you were stuck) consisted of sad cellophaned hot dogs and kimbap; and 2) the only place to buy a ticket was a single little booth in the next postal code. And the ticket office was really lo-tech for Korea: the tickets were pre-printed, and they just gave you the next ones on the scroll for the seating section you chose.

I bought a seat in the nosebleed section (W20,000), and never bothered to find out exactly where it was. I mostly stood at the top of the bottom section until the game was well underway, and chose an unoccupied seat close to the field (W50,000) with no one around me. The stadium holds about 70,000 and attendance was less than half that, so it was easy to do.

Opening ceremony, with palace guard in attendance
The crowd may have been sparse, but what it lacked in number, it made up for in spirit. Korea's relative disinterest in its soccer continues to puzzle me, for the team is very competitive--super fast, excellent position play and ball movement, one or two touches at max, solid defense and aggressive offense. The only thing they really lack seems to be communication in small group situations: two v. two or three in close quarters.

And their excellence was on display in the game, where they scored two goals in succession (ahem!) about thirty minutes in and took a two goal lead to halftime. The second goal was a beautifully-executed soft header forward to himself that #12 (Park Ji-sung, who plays for Man U) one-touched on the half-volley past a stunned defense. The photo below (don't bother enlarging these, they're crappy) shows a near miss from a free kick on Korea's next possession.

The yellow streak left of the upright is the ball, just before a great save by UAE keeper
UAE made it interesting when their striker capitalized on the left fullback's mishandling of a pass from the keeper for a 2 - 1 score. The Red Devils made up for it with two goals, at 79:00 and 86:00 minutes, the last on a sweet corner (I missed #3, as I knew they were about to score, but my bladder was near to overflowing) headed in by Kwak Tae-hwi.

I arrived home just as the guy that runs the fitness center in my building was leaving--he recognized me (Duh!) and we chatted for a minute. Maybe tomorrow, instead of a strangled Konglish conversation about how out-of-shape I am, we can talk about futbol.


Christopher Richter said...

Hey Tuttle,

I've been following your blog since your journey began. I am making the same journey in a few weeks to teach in Seoul (I'm from New York). I love the blog, but are those pictures taken from a cell phone camera? If they are, I think it's time to upgrade to the professionalism that your blog radiates. Good luck buddy, and keep bloggin,

Chris (New York)

Tuttle said...

Yes, they are cell pics. Though you have followed my blog (thank you for the compliment), you must have missed the posts where I referred to the fact that I left my camera on the bus my VERY FIRST NIGHT in Korea.

Having spent US $300 on a Canon Powershot SX 100 w/ 2 GB card just for the purpose of illustrating this blog, I am being a little circumspect before replacing it.