Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Park inspires South Korea to win over Japan

South Korea's midfielder Park Ji-Sung reacts after scoring his team's first goal against Japan during their international friendly football match at Saitama Stadium, suburban Tokyo, on Monday.


Takeshi Okada will remain in charge of Japan for the World Cup finals after questioning his future as national coach following a morale-sapping 2-0 defeat by Asian rivals South Korea on Monday.

South Korea captain Park Ji-sung inspired the visitors and left Japan's preparations for South Africa in tatters, with their opening Group E game against Cameroon just three weeks away.

"I asked the (JFA) president if I should continue as coach," Okada told reporters. "He said 'Yes' -- so I'll carry on. It's a question of taking responsibility.

Story continues below advertisement

"It's not that I have lost confidence. I just asked if he wanted me to stay and warned him he will take a lot of criticism if he sticks with me.

"To lose twice to Korea in one year, I am deeply sorry," Okada added after the Blue Samurai had suffered yet another blow in a stumbling build-up to the World Cup.

Park stunned Japan in the sixth minute with a superb solo goal, bursting past three players before smashing a right-foot shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the penalty box.

Substitute Park Chu-young added an injury-time penalty to complete a deserved victory for the 2002 World Cup semi-finalists in front of a crowd of 57,000 in Saitama.

"We're gaining confidence with every match," said Park Ji-sung. "It was a difficult atmosphere but we kept our focus on attacking.

"I told the players to win their one-on-ones," added the Manchester United midfielder. "Maybe Japan has that mentality too but we were the better team today."

The South Koreans take on Greece, Argentina and Nigeria in Group B at the World Cup following final tune-ups against Belarus and co-favourites Spain in Austria.

Story continues below advertisement

Japan face the Netherlands and Denmark after Cameroon but first must try to restore their battered confidence with games against England and Ivory Coast in Europe.

"We were extra pumped up for this game so to lose 2-0 is a massive disappointment," said Japan captain Yuji Nakazawa. "If we don't win our next two games we'll be in trouble."

With Okada likely to be subjected to further ridicule over his target of a World Cup semi-final place, South Korea coach Huh Jung-moo kept his feet firmly on the ground.

"The players kept calm and never lost their concentration," said Huh after South Korea had made it 34 wins to Japan's 10 in 62 meetings between the countries.

"There are still areas we can improve on but we can take several plus points from tonight and go to Austria tomorrow and work towards our opening World Cup game with Greece."

Report an error
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this resolved by the end of January 2018. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to