JOHANNESBURG - Twenty-four years after kicking Diego Maradona around a Mexican pitch for 90 minutes, South Korea coach Huh Jung-moo will get another chance to put the boot into Argentina on Thursday.
Huh was assigned the unenviable task of marking Maradona at the 1986 World Cup when the Argentine was at the height of his powers. South Korea lost 3-1 that day and Huh still remembers his encounter with the magical number 10.
"He was a world-class player and it was so difficult to mark him. That's why there was some physical contact and tussles," Huh recalled at a news conference on Wednesday, a day ahead of his side's Group B meeting with Argentina at Soccer City.
"But when you're playing the game there's always going to be physical contact. It's not intentional, it's just part of the game."
After the draw for the 2010 World Cup put Argentina in a group with South Korea, Nigeria and Greece, Maradona, now coach of the national side, said he remembered Huh well and described the 1986 game as being more like taekwondo than football.
Huh, however, bristled at the suggestion he had played dirty.
"If I had been doing taekwondo the referee would have pulled out a yellow card," he said, the memory of a thigh-high lunge that left Maradona writhing in agony eluding him for the moment.
"It was football, not taekwondo."
South Korea failed to advance from the group stage in Mexico while Argentina went on to win the tournament, Maradona cementing his place among the greats of world soccer.
"When we met Argentina 24 years ago, to tell the truth we were very intimidated," said Huh, adding that he wanted his players to go out and enjoy the game on Thursday.
"If you are too intimidated and lose your self-confidence you can't attain anything. That's why I told them to enjoy it."
With both teams winning their opening group games in South Africa, a victory on Thursday would go a long way to securing a place in the last 16.
Maradona has already turned up the temperature ahead of their encounter, saying that it was the referee's duty to protect skilful players like Lionel Messi.
"Psychological warfare is meant to shake people up, to rattle them," said Huh.
"But we are playing a football match, this isn't a war of words. They are a strong team, but the strongest team doesn't always win."comments