As the new year dawns, for football fans 2013 marks the halfway point to the next World Cup to be held in Brazil. While Canada’s side has already been eliminated in embarrassing fashion, the Republic of Korea team seems to be well on course to qualify for its eighth consecutive tournament. With this and the 50th anniversary of Korean-Canadian relations in mind, it seems an opportune time to look back on the history of the two countries when they’ve met on the football pitch.
Historically, the Republic of Korea has been a strong footballing nation and regional power in the sport since the end of the second world war. Canada, however, did not consistently field an international side until 1972, when they attempted (and failed) to qualify for the upcoming world cup. Despite these long histories, the two teams did not officially cross paths until 1993 – when they met for a pair of friendlies in Victoria and Vancouver in preparation for Canada’s World Cup qualification campaign.
These two friendlies were split, each with a score of 2-0. The first match was won by the ROK, on goals by K-League legend Kim Hyun Seok and career Chunnam Dragons defender Kim Tae Yeong, who would gain notoriety as the ROK’s masked defender during their famous 2002 World Cup run. Canada’s victory was earned on goals from prolific Canadian Soccer League striker John Catliff and journeyman Eddy Berdusco. Unfortunately, the preparations would be for naught, as Canada would again fail to qualify for the World Cup, eventually losing on penalties following a playoff eliminator with Australia.
The next meeting would not be for another seven years, when the sides were involved in a spot of lunacy during the 2000 Gold Cup. While their match in Los Angeles was a dull 0-0 draw, the end of the group stage saw Canada and the ROK tied not only on points, but on every official tiebreaker as well. Eventually, a coin toss was used to decide who would advance. Canada won the coin toss, and then went on to win the Gold Cup in the country’s greatest football achievement to date.
The two countries met again in the 3rd place match at the 2002 Gold Cup. Veteran ROK striker Kim Do Hoon scored early, then added a second before half-time to make it 1-1 – a disastrous own goal. Canadian icon Dwayne De Rosario then added another in the disarray that followed, and the match ended with a 2-1 victory for Canada. This would be the last time that the two nations would meet in international football to date.
While the footballing history between Canada and the Republic of Korea is minimal, there has been no shortage of drama during the few times when the two sides have met. It has also proven to be a competitive relationship, with only a coin-toss and an own-goal to separate the two sides. It seems a bit unfortunate that the countries have not met in almost eleven years, and with the 50th Anniversary of diplomatic relations fast approaching, it would certainly provide a suitable backdrop for a resumption of this minor, but engaging rivalry.