(ATTN: ADDS comments throughout, photos)
By Yoo Jee-ho
DOHA, Dec. 6 (Yonhap) -- Before taking on world No. 1 Brazil in their first knockout match at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, South Korean players had talked some tough talk, saying they wouldn't just happy to be in the round of 16 and they would try their best to upset the Selecao.
However, reality punched them in the face Monday night, when Brazil pounded South Korea 4-1 at Stadium 974 in Doha to advance to the quarterfinals.
South Korea were taken to school, getting thoroughly outplayed and finding no answer against flashy offensive display of the top-ranked team.
Brazil were everything that South Korea aspire to be, clinical with their finish and precise with their passes in tight space. Each of Brazil's four goals brought thousands of fans out of their seats, such was their sheer beauty.
South Korea had reached this point by sticking to their guns and playing their usual, buildup football. It's largely predicated on winning the possession battle and patiently creating opportunities from the back.
But whatever South Korea had planned to do, whether it was attacking Brazil on the flanks or behind their defense with speed, Brazil ruined those plans before the match was even half an hour old.
Vinicius Junior, Neymar and Richarlison had a goal apiece to give Brazil a 3-0 lead by the 29th minute, and Lucas Paqueta added another in the 36th to essentially end the match there.
Brazil scored their first three goals on four shot attempts. The possession numbers were almost dead even, but the Brazilians were far more ruthless and efficient when they had the ball in the attacking zone. Having skills straight out of a video game also helped.
Brazil were also quick to counter pressure South Korea when they lost possession, and they often found open teammates to go on transition.
South Korea continued to battle in the second half, with substitute Paik Seung-ho scoring the lone goal for the Taegeuk Warriors with an impressive left-footed strike in the 76th.
But it was far too little, too late. The match that kicked off at 10 p.m. finished just before the clock struck midnight in Qatar. With that, South Korea's dream of a Cinderella run at the World Cup died, too.
South Korean left fullback Kim Jin-su admitted afterward he was running on fumes and didn't have what it takes physically to keep his Brazilian foes in check.
Kim battled a hamstring injury in the days before the World Cup and took painkillers to play group matches here. The 30-year-old started all four matches in Qatar, after missing the past two World Cups with injuries he'd sustained just before the start of the competition.
"I wanted to run hard and try to stop them the best I could, but my body wouldn't move," Kim said. "Whether it's due to an injury or due to playing all the group matches, it's an excuse. I should have played better. And obviously, we all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and think about how to prepare for matches in the future."
Defensive midfielder Jung Woo-young had a rough match, and his foul on Richarlison in the box led to Neymar's penalty in the 13th minute that gave Brazil a 2-0 lead.
"I hold myself accountable for the penalty, and it was also disappointing to allow two quick goals after the first one," Jung said. "This was not the result we wanted, but I personally gave my best. I accept that we went up against a powerful team, but I don't think this is a wall we can't break through. If we're better prepared, we can put up a good fight against them."
Forward Cho Gue-sung, who earned his third straight start, said Brazil proved too much for South Korea to handle.
"It was easy to see why those players all play for big clubs," Cho said. "They were perfect in every aspect. I think they were just too powerful, but I am sure everyone could see that we played hard and didn't give up until the end."
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