by Richard Brook
Penalty shoot-out heart break for Daniel Sturridge, and a spot-kick miss in the 90 minutes from Aaron Ramsey, saw Team GB crash out of the Olympic football tournament in Cardiff. In normal time it had been a tale of two penalties and of two goalkeepers. Both sides custodians conceded a goal they will feel they should have done better with. A 25-yard effort from Ji Dongwon was cancelled out by one of Ramsey’s two opportunities from the penalty spot, in the first half. Ultimately it was the more dramatic penalties, of the shoot-out that ensured South Korea’s progression to the semi-finals.
South Korea’s footballers, like all their Olympic athletes, have more incentive than most to be successful. Any South Korean male, who wins an Olympic medal, avoids the country’s mandatory national service. Coach, Hong Myung Bo, had an illustrious playing career with South Korea, featuring in four consecutive World Cup’s as well as playing in the Olympics. Whether down to playing experience or not, the coach’s South Korean’s first half display was superior to any other test GB have faced in the Olympics so far. The side looked, well organised, and willing out of possession, while able and at times flamboyant with the ball.
The first clear sight of goal came to Sunderland’s Ji Dongwon, who struck the ball cleanly toward the bottom right of Butland’s goal. The Birmingham keeper got a strong right hand on the ball. A good period of pressure followed, for South Korea, culminating in Park Jongwoo’s effort from range clearing the GB crossbar.
The danger signs continued for Team GB as, following a poor foul by Sinclair in a dangerous right flank position, Park Jongwoo swung a wonderful cross in from the dead ball and it was met firmly at the far post by Park Chuyoung’s head. The ball passed, narrowly over Butland’s goal. The keeper might say he had it covered, but it was far too close for comfort for Team GB.
On the half hour mark Ji Dongwon gave South Korea a lead that their dominance deserved. His long shot, from the left of centre, outside the box, was crisply enough struck, but questions must be asked of Butland. The keeper dived to his left as the shot came across him, but the ball somehow evaded him, though well within reach. It is hard not to feel a degree of sympathy for the 19-year-old, given his tournament form.
With ten minutes to go until half-time Team GB were level. Ryan Bertrand hit a tame shot that Oh Jaesuk blocked on the floor in the penalty area. The ball hit the defender on the arm in the process and the referee pointed at the spot. After the scuffles of a protest died down, Aaron Ramsey stepped up and hit it hard and low to the right hand side of the keeper. Jung Sungryong guessed the right way but did not get down quickly enough and the ball squeezed under his efforts and into the net.
Just three minutes later GB had another penalty, when Hwang Seokho fouled Daniel Sturridge. Ramsey shot to the opposite side, and the keeper again second guessed the Arsenal man, this time making the save.
Early in the second half Team GB had a chance to take the lead. Craig Bellamy was released down the right wing, and played a good early, low cross to the near post area that begged to be attacked. Tom Cleverley got across the front of the goalkeeper, but was a split second too late, having checked his run. The moment was gone, as the ball bounced into the grateful arms of Jung Sungryong.
Cleverley crossed a free-kick right into the danger area, from the left hand corner of the box, and Richards threw himself at the ball with everything he had, and won the ball. The Manchester City defender and the South Korean keeper arrived at the same moment, and collided hard in mid-air. Richard’s was stretchered from the field. Craig Dawson replaced Richards, and soon after Lee Bumyoung took over in the South Korean goal.
With a little under twenty minutes of normal time remaining, Ji Donwong had the ball in the net for South Korea, after coolly slotting past Butland. The GB defence had already let the Sunderland man run as he had narrowly, but correctly, given offside.
GB responded as Bertrand played a good pass in the penalty area, to Sturridge who tried a cheeky back-heel toward goal, which was deflected clear. The ball ended up at the feet of Dawson, who smashed the ball goal-wards, keeping it on target from some way out. Kim Younggwon, bravely stood tall and headed the powerful strike clear. The force of the shot left the South Korean defender requiring treatment. Despite scares in both boxes, neither side could prevent the quarter-final tie slipping into extra-time.
The notable chances in extra-time fell the way of South Korea. Butland had to be at his best to deny Koo Jacheol who had broken into the GB box. Butland’s parry landed on the head of Ji Dongwon, who under pressure lobbed his header over the keeper, but fractionally wide of the post. It was Ji Dongwon again, just before the break in extra-time, who connected with a free header from a corner, six yards out. To the relief of a worryingly static GB defence the ball ballooned well over the goal.
In the shoot-out no-one missed any of the first four rounds of penalties, before Sturridge stepped forward. The Chelsea striker, put a stutter in his run-up where you could almost see the keeper read the direction from his body shape, to make the save. Celtic midfielder Ki Sungyueng rounded off the job with the final spot-kick of the night, to fire South Korea into the semi-finals.