|July 30th, 2012|
|1||Pool B||8:30am||KOR - NZL||2 - 0 (2 - 0)||Final|
The first match of the 2012 Olympic men's tournament promised to be a close contest between two close teams in the FIH world ranking (6th for Korea and 7th for New Zealand) and with similar international experience (average of 155 international Caps for Korea and 150 for New Zealand).
As expected, the match started with an intense battle for possession in the midfield, with neither team giving an inch. The Black Sticks tried to circulate the ball around the Koreans, who were tightly regrouped in defense and only sporadically pushing up with long balls for a high forward.
New Zealand goalkeeper Kyle Pontifex was called into action shortly after when a turn-over in midfield was promptly converted by Lee Nam Yong. Although not rich in goal chances, the intense tactical battle was fascinating and the near capacity crowd in Riverbank Arena watched in awe the display of individual and collective skills. The goal came after a green card to Nicholas Haig: Kang Moon Kyu played the free hit quickly and found You Hyo Sik for an unstoppable deflection in goal.
It took some wind out of the Black Sticks’ sails and the Koreans collectively moved higher on the field, leaving even less space for manoeuver in midfield. They pushed in the final minutes of the period and a hard cross from the left eluded everybody in the circle to find You Hyo Sik left unmarked on the far post for his second goal of the day and a comfortable two-goal lead for Korea going into the break.
Despite the support of the crowd, the New Zealanders seemed lost their initial intensity and the Koreans had the upper hand to open the second period. Pontifex needed to be sharp to fend off the Korean attempts from close range. The Black Sticks had to work hard to avoid conceding additional goals.
New Zealand had another flurry of chances with five minutes left on the clock, but Lee Myung Ho managed to dive left and right to protect the Korean goal. He was again well positioned a few minutes later to deflect a penalty-corner shot by Shea Mcaleese, and Korea could calmly weather the final minutes to end up with the win after a solid and impressive performance.
YOU Hyosik (KOR), on scoring both goals for Korea: "There are no words to describe how I feel right now. I've been waiting for a goal on the international stage for a long time so I'm really happy and excited about scoring twice."
Korea captain Seungil LEE, on the match: "We were playing very defensively for the first 20 minutes, but that was our strategy. Once we got the first goal in, we changed that strategy to be offensive. Our strategy was that once we'd get one goal in we'd be able to get the game to move faster. That faster pace contributed to our second goal and upped our spirits as a team We've trained a lot to use deflection and hit the ball hard at goal. We've been training as a team for four years now and that has made us a strong group. I think the unity was one of the reasons we won the game."