World Cup co-host South Korea is set to take on three-time champion Germany in the first semifinal Tuesday night (0030 UTC) in Seoul. No Asian team has ever before made it this far in the World Cup. The home field has proved to be a huge advantage for the Koreans, with their team playing before boisterous fans, nearly all wearing the team's red colors.
Their support has helped lift their team to surprising victories over Italy and then Spain in the knockout portion of the tournament. Now the Koreans face Germany, which has been the most consistent team in World Cup history, having reached at least the quarterfinals in 14 of the 15 World Cups it has played in. The Germans are in their 10th semifinal.
They will have a bit of an advantage by having had three full days off before this match, while South Korea will have had two days rest. In addition, the Koreans had to play a full 30 minutes of extra time in their 5-3 penalty shootout victory over Spain on Saturday.
South Korea's Dutch coach, Guus Hiddink, says he can't worry about it. "Of course, we have one day less recovery time than the German team had," he said, "but we have to cope with that. I don't want to complain. It's one day. We had two days less than the Spanish team. But we are happy to be this far in the tournament."
Coach Hiddink added he is not sure all his regulars will be fully recovered for the semi-final against Germany. He said, if some of his key players are unable to start, he has to have confidence in others, so he can have fresh legs to meet the challenge of facing another top European team.
"The German team is, I think, physically, very strong," Mr. Hiddink commented, "and they also can play very efficient. They're not so keen on playing very, very well in style, but they can play very efficient, and they're very dangerous."
The Germans are especially dangerous on set pieces: free kicks and corner kicks. The United States soccer team found that out in its 1-0 quarterfinal loss to them, yielding the lone goal off a free kick that was headed home by the taller Germans.
Germany also plays excellent defense, having allowed only one goal in its five World Cup matches. But the host Koreans are good defensively as well, yielding only two goals, excluding penalty kicks in their shootout win over Spain. Now the question is, can the Koreans continue their surprising run towards football's biggest prize?
The winner of this match will head to Yokohama, Japan to play for the title Sunday against the winner of Wednesday's semi-final between Brazil and Turkey at 1130 UTC in Saitama, Japan.