Bronze medal match preview: South Korea v Japan
It will be an all-Asian affair in the bronze medal match at London 2012 after Far East giants South Korea and Japan fell at the semi-final stage to Brazil and Mexico respectively.
The Samurai Blue will face off with their old nemesis in the Taegeuk Warriors for a shot at third place at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff on Friday evening.
Both sides will be eager for the win not only to register Asian supremacy but to also send out a message in terms of just how far the nations have come in the world game, with many pre-tournament judgements overlooking the two as dark horses.
Routes to the bronze medal match
South Korea negotiated the preliminary round by finishing runner-up to Mexico in Group B with five points.
The Koreans played out a goalless draw with the Mexicans in their London 2012 opener before stamping their authority in the Olympics with a 2-1 win over Switzerland.
Match winners and English-based duo Park Chu-Young and Kim Bo-Kyung struck the goals on that occasion, which proved to be decisive, given the Koreans went on to register another goalless draw against Gabon meaning they finished up undefeated, but only scored two goals.
In the quarter final stage, South Korea faced the hosts in Team GB at Cardiff with the Far Eastern side breaking home hearts in a penalty shoot out.
After Sunderland forward Ji Dong-Won put the Reds in front, Aaron Ramsey levelled up from the spot before failing to register a second – from the spot also. The game went all the way to penalties with the Koreans striking all five, only for Daniel Sturridge to miss the crucial fifth kick for Team GB which Lee Bum-Young saved.
In the semi-final at Old Trafford, South Korea were convincingly beaten 3-0 by tournament favourites Brazil who struck through Romulo and a Leandro Damiao brace.
Japan’s preliminary round negotiation was more impressive with the Samurai Blue registering seven points with the most impressive game including a victory over pre-tournament favourites Spain.
After Yuki Otsu downed the Spaniards in the Group D opener 1-0, Takashi Sekizuka’s side beat Morocco 1-0 putting them in the driving seat for a table topping preliminary round.
Japan remained undefeated after this stage after playing out a goalless draw with Central Americans Honduras on match day three.
The Samurai Blue were rampant in the quarter finals sweeping away Egypt 3-0 inm Manchester with Kensuke Nagai, Maya Yoshida and Yuki Otsu downing the North Africans.
This is as far as the dream went however as Japan were brought crashing down by Mexico in the semis.
It started so well for Japan as Yuki Otsu put them in front on 12 minutes but a resurgence from the Tricolor saw them end up victors by three goals to one.
Although the rivalry has been much calmer in recent years, there is always ill-feeling held between both the South Koreans and Japanese.
The two countries remain very much separate despite them both co-hosting the World Cup way back in 2002.
Perhaps South Korea have the greater incentive to win given reports that the entire team will be granted military exemption if they achieve the bronze medal at London 2012.
Nevertheless, Japan won’t take any notice of this as they go for bronze themselves with Yuki Otsu looking to continue his hot streak of scoring at London 2012.
The Borussia Monchengladbach man has already scored three times at the games.
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