Between Greece and South Korea there is one World Cup knockout stage appearance: a 2002 run to the semifinals engineered by a South Korea team that co-hosted the tournament. That lack of historical success means there is little narrative behind the Greeks and Koreans, and without stand-out individual players in their squads, the usual means of describing teams (as either historic powers or talented upstarts) fail this match-up.
Thus, it's no wonder there's relatively little interest in Saturday's first match.
It's a shame, because given how South Korea and Greece stylistically match-up, the opener of Group B play will be compelling viewing. The South Koreans are skilled, drilled, and technically adept, and going-up against a Greek side that will allow their opponents to take the match to them, you end-up with battle that tries to answer a very basic question - Which wins out: attack or defense?
In attach, the South Koreans are not exactly the Dutch, but they have a recent history heavy in Dutch influence. In 2002, they were coached by Holland legend Guus Hiddink, while in 2006 they were led by another Dutch icon, Dick Advocaat. From them, the Koreans have inherited a fluidity to attack them emphases movement, technique, and the use of space, and while they do not have any internationally elite attacking talents (and their lack of a true presence in the final third keeps them from amassing high goal totals), they have enough skill to be capable of picking apart a flawed side.
Unfortunately for Korea, Greece is not flawed defensively. If anything, Greece is South Korea's mirror image. While the Koreans have a set of inherent characteristics that make them capable of executing an attacking brand of soccer, the same can be said for Greece in defense. Coach Otto Rehhagel, through both formation and tactic, emphasizes defending first, playing a 3-4-3 that quickly morphs to playing five at the back; however, maintaining the same number of attackers on the pitch, Greece remains equipped to counter teams that have to send more players forward, trying to increase their numbers against the Greek defense.
Tactics often are only as good as the players employing them, but to Rehhagel's pleasure, Greece has the likes of Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Loukas Vyntra, and Giourkas Seitaridis to buttress his defense. Unfortunately for the German-born coach, Greece will be without Bologna's Vangelis Moras for Saturday's match, a leg injury keeping the central defender out against Korea.
His presence would have been key to helping contain Park Chu-Young. The AS Monaco forward's emergence as a goal scoring threat is one of the ways Korea has improved since their 17th place finish in Germany. Right wing Lee Chung-Yong and midfielder Ki Sung-Yong are also new, talented faces in attack, while Manchester United's Park Ji-Sung captain's the team from the left wing.
Just as Greece has a number of above-average players to enforce a defensive-first approach, Korea has a quartet of notable (if not elite) attackers that keep them dangerous. While that means neither team in Saturday's first match will be glamourous, the match-up of styles will at least be compelling.