World Cup fever is in full swing after a weekend of back to back group stage games, and as excitement builds, so does the rivalry between teams.
So far we’ve already seen world champions Germany lose their first match to Mexico, whose celebrations apparently caused an earthquake, as well as Brazil not winning their opening game for the first time in 40 years.
While trying to outsmart your opponent during the game is one thing, trying to one-up your rivals before even setting foot on the pitch is another. But that’s exactly what the South Korean team have been doing as they prepare for their game with Sweden today (June 18).
It’s well-known that sports teams will study their opponents, memorising tactics and looking for weaknesses while setting out their own plan of action. Sweden, however, took things a step further by allegedly sending in a scout to spy on the South Korean team as they trained this month in the run-up to their Group F meeting.
According to Reuters, a Swedish scout used a house near Korea’s training base in Austria to watch training sessions using a high performance telescope and video camera.
Lars Jacobsson, a member of the Swedish coaching staff, said:
It took a long car journey up the mountains to reach the house, but it was a perfect spot to observe the Korean team’s training.
The scout had previously been kicked out of a closed training session after trying to convince the Koreans he was a passing tourist. Instead, he persuaded a local couple to let him use their house, which overlooked the training facility, to watch the world cup team practice.
On Sunday, Sweden’s coach Janne Andersson issued an apology.
It is very important we show respect for an opponent and if what we did has been perceived in another way, then we apologise.
This is something small that has been turned into something much bigger because usually our information about our opponents comes from us watching them play matches.
While in-depth analysis of of opponents is commonplace in football, the South Korean team were wise to their opponents’ subterfuge, and had another trick up their sleeve to outsmart any potential spy.
South Korea coach Shin Tae-yong told his players to swap shirts, making them use different numbers on their jerseys to confuse anyone who might be watching from afar.
We switched them around because we didn’t want to show our opponents everything and to try and confuse them.
They might know a few of our players but it is very difficult for Westerners to distinguish between Asians and that’s why we did that.
All coaches probably feel their opponents are always spying on them. I think it’s perfectly natural that we all try to get as much information on each other as we can.
South Korea and Sweden will kick off at 1PM (BST), Monday, June 18.
Other matches today include the first game of England’s World Cup campaign as they face Tunsia.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.