Korea paves way for U.S.Posted: Friday June 14, 2002 12:07 PM
Updated: Friday June 14, 2002 12:07 PM
By Mike Woitalla, Soccer America
Maybe the U.S. should give the South Koreans that skating gold medal they've been making such a big deal about. Certainly some thanks are in order.
Despite getting thumped, 3-1, by Poland in its final Group D game on Monday, the U.S. advances to the second round because South Korea beat Portugal, 1-0, eliminating the team that had been favored to win the group.
South Korea wins Group D on 7 points and faces Italy Tuesday, June 18.
The U.S. finishes second-on four points garnered from a win over Portugal (3-2) and a tie with South Korea (1-1) -- and faces Mexico Monday, June 17 in the round of 16.
The Poles shocked the Americans with two goals in the first five minutes through Emmanuel Olisadebe and Pawel Kryszalowicz. Marcin Zewlakow made it 3-0 in the 66th minute.
Meanwhile in Incheon, the Koreans, needing only a tie, were playing against a Portugal that had two players ejected. Park Ji Sung scoring in the 70th minute meant the U.S. remained in second place on four points to Portugal's three points.
In Daejon, the U.S. keeper Brad Friedel saved a Maciej Zurawski penalty kick and Landon Donovon scored to pull the U.S. within two goals.
Portugal came close to scoring three times in the final final five minutes-including a shot against the post-but couldn't come up with the goal it needed to tie and advance over the U.S.. (A Portugal tie would have put it even on points with the U.S. but with a superior goal difference thanks to its 4-0 win over Poland.)
Instead, the U.S. advances to the second round of a World Cup for the third time in its history.
In its seven previous World Cup appearances, the U.S. survived the first round only twice. It reached the semifinals of the 13-team inaugural World Cup in 1930 by winning two games, against Belgium and Paraguay. It lost in the semifinals to Argentina, 6-1.
In 1994, as host, the U.S. reached the second round by tying Switzerland (1-1) and beating Colombia (2-1) before losing to Romania, 1-0, to finish third in its group, behind Switzerland on goal difference. (Before the World Cup's expansion to 32 teams, four of the six third-place finishers earned second-round passage. The U.S. lost to Brazil in the round of 16.
In its last World Cup appearance, in 1998, the U.S. lost all of its three games to finish last among the 32-team field.
Although the Americans needed major assistance from the Koreans, they would not have been in a position to profit had they not pulled off the upset against pre-tournament favorite Portugal and a tie against the host nation.
Mike Woitalla is executive editor at Soccer America magazine.