The Nigerian federation and new team manager Lars Lagerback have set a target of a semi-final finish. The prevailing view is that Lagerback has a decent CV as Sweden coach and he’s been given the benefit of the doubt so far. South Koreans are hopeful of second round qualification. After a trio of Dutchmen, Huh Jung-Moo is the first native coach of South Korea since his previous spell between 1998 and 2000. A famous player, Huh scored the goal against Japan which started the roll of six consecutive World Cup appearances. He is generally considered to be a conservative coach but has experimented with different formations recently.
Seyi Olofinjana is the best interviewee in the Nigerian squad and he has an impressive non-footballing CV, with undergraduate and master’s degrees in Chemical Engineering. Obafemi Martins has been reported to be a very free spender, running up major debts on his credit cards. Expect to see Park Ji-Sung, who speaks good English, to be put forward most to the media. Apparently, when young, Park drank boiled frog extract to grow taller. Bolton’s Chung-Young Lee says Park is a great cook – he goes round his house for spicy chicken and loses to him at Pro Evolution Soccer. The Man Utd player is in his fourth consecutive year as an honorary ambassador to Asiana Airlines. He is also the face of Gillette and Gatorade among others.
Among the several Nigerian players who celebrate goals by doing flips, the notable are Martins, Ikechukwu Uche and even goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama. Other less acrobatic players tend to settle for dances, which were the original celebrations before the jumpers showed up. Ki Sung-Young (known as David, a name given to him while growing up in Australia) often performs a kangaroo routine where he hops around. Ahn Jung-Hwan is known as “Lord of the Rings” after he scored against the US in the 2002 World Cup – as he ran away to celebrate he kissed his wedding ring then followed it with a speed skating dance (the Koreans were convinced that a American speed skater had robbed them of a gold medal in the 2002 Winter Olympics).
Many Nigerians have cable at home just for football, so they will have other options if the local media don’t deliver. That said, many local stations will be sending their staff over to South Africa. The major face as a TV expert is former Everton man Daniel Amokachi, who has also been assistant manager of the national team. He does a decent job on the pan-African sports channel Supersport. Former Bundesliga star Cha Bum-Kun will be doing co-commentary on the Korean matches. He’s very knowledgable about the game but is still likely to get just as emotional as everyone else who’s watching.
South Korea should have a decent following and will be choreographed to shout Dae-Han Minguk (Republic of Korea) followed by five claps over and over again. There won’t be much variation on that. The Nigerian Football Supporters Club follows the national team everywhere. It has several thousand members, but there are usually about 200 at away matches. It is not clear how many regular Nigerian fans will make it to South Africa following complications with ticket sales. Tomi Oladipo, Craig Branch & David Spendley