France 1-1 South Korea
Oh dear. Poor old France. Stop sniggering at the back. Whilst it’s easy to fill oneself with schadenfreude and have a good chuckle at Le Republique’s misfortune, we should take a moment to consider their “mal chance”. After they finally, finally broke their finals duck (astonishingly, Henry’s goal against South Korea was their first World Cup finals goal since Emmanuel Petit’s against Brazil eight years ago), they had a strong shout for a penalty turned down and had a shot that was about three feet over the line not awarded as a goal.
They had plenty of opportunities to put it right, though. Thierry Henry, I think, has been found out. As Ian Wright (providing his first insightful piece of analysis of the tournament – well done, Ian!) pointed out, Henry, when faced with a one-on-one against the goalkeeper, almost always shoots low and to the goalkeeper’s left. Lee, the South Korean goalkeeper, seemed to have the measure of this and saved twice in such situations. Other than that, they didn’t create much, in spite of having a lot of possession and spending most of the match camped in the Korean half, couldn’t create many chances.
For the second day in a row, after Italy’s own-goal against the United States, we had a comed goal to level things up for South Korea, as Park lobbed the ball in slow motion over Barthez and Gallas on the goal-line. Gallas’ response, booting the ball high into the air and shouting at SOMETHING! ANYTHING! was worth the admission fee on it’s own. Having been pegged back, the French swarmed forward, playing the sort of football that they should have been playing for the previous eighty minutes, but it was a case of too little, too late. Both teams had half-chances to win it, the draw was a fair result, as it turned out.
France, then, are in danger of not qualifying for the next round. If Switzerland beat Togo this afternoon (as they should), a draw between them and the Koreans will leave the French needing goal difference to scrape through. They will be hoping against hope that they can manage this and then raise their game in the second round. For Korea, who are almost but not quite there, the hope remains that the confidence that they’ll have built up from this result will outweigh any nerves. We should also note, however, that, for the second World Cup in a row, the Koreans have benefitted from some generous refereeing decisions. This sort of luck cannot continue indefinitely. Other than that, this group is too close to call.