It was a case of so near yet so far for Korea on Tuesday. Despite getting the better of the Netherlands 2-1 in their last league encounter, Korea missed out on a semi-final berth, on goal difference.
Despite Tuesday’s win Korea were tied on points with the Dutch, who had a goal difference of 10 (15 for and 5 against) in comparison to the Asian team who ended on 8 (16 for and 8 against).
If the Koreans had managed just one more goal the entire situation would have turned on its head.
Both teams would have then ended on the same goal difference and the Koreans would have gone through as they have scored more goals.
But that was not to be as they could not score the one goal that mattered despite dominating the Dutch.
The Netherlands now face Pool ‘B’ topper Australia in the semifinals and Korea will play against Spain for the fifth-sixth position.
Tuesday’s result makes this the first World Cup since 1998 with no Asian team in the final four. The only previous occasion when this happened was in 1986 when India and Pakistan played for the 11th-12th position.
On the day, Ronald Brouwer gave the Netherlands a very early lead by scoring in the first minute of the match.
The Koreans fought back and levelled the score just before halftime via Hyun Woo Nam (31st).
They then surged ahead when Jong Ho Seo scored their second goal in the 45th minute. They exerted a lot of pressure in the second half, dominated the midfield and threw all men upfront, attacking in waves, looking for the elusive second goal.
However, luck deserted them when they needed it most and Korea’s forwards failed to capitalise on at least half a dozen clear chances.
As the clock wound down, the Dutch upped the tempo, hoping to equalise and draw the game, but the score remained 2-1 when the final whistle blew.
“We knew that the Koreans are capable of pulling off a surprise, so the defeat did not come as a shock. In the past too they have beaten us on couple of occasions,” said Holland’s Jeron Hertzberger.
Coach Michael van de Heuvel insisted that his team was looking to the future. “Now we will be focusing on the semifinal match, leaving aside this result,” he said.