email a friend iconprinter friendly iconSean Wilsey: World Cup 2002
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Argentina, in the "Group of Death" with England, Nigeria and Sweden, was eliminated by a penalty kick from David Beckham (making restitution for his fatal mistakes against them in 1998) and went home with the Portuguese and the French.

Africa barely made an appearance after the group stage, with only Senegal continuing on; while of the Asian teams South Korea and Japan both made it into the knockout round. Japan fell first, to an occasionally thuggish, always inspired Turkey (the team that earned more red and yellow cards than any other), while South Korea eliminated Italy in the most exciting game of the tournament. After forcing the complacent Azzurri to run hard for nearly two hours, expat striker Ahn Jung Hwan, who played his club soccer for Perugia, won the match with a golden goal in the 117th minute. South Korea had a new national hero, and the hero's Italian boss, Luciano Gaucci, cancelled his contract: "I have no intention of paying a salary to someone who has ruined Italian football." Four days later, facing Spain, South Korea played another two hours, this time winning on penalties. Spain, with the last eight their second best finish since 1950, had to live with two disallowed goals. "I thought the referee would be fairer in a quarterfinal match like this," said coach Jose Antonio Camacho. "We fought to the end and went out because South Korea were luckier than us." In the semifinals, South Korea met Oliver Kahn's Germany. Michael Ballack scored the game's lone goal (only the third in six matches to make it past Lee Woon Jae), and ended their run in front of 66,625 of their drum-beating, crimson-clad, mass-choreographed fans. Guus Hiddink, South Korea's Dutch coach (and recipient of honorary citizenship), was sensibly appreciative: "They showed what support can be: a miracle mix of enthusiasm and non-violence."

Both the co-hosts were more than deserving of their success, persevering against storied sides, taking chances, defending with resolve and running harder than all the other nations in the seventeenth World Cup. If FIFA had put a pedometer on the South Korean and Japanese midfields the footfall count would have been twice that recorded by any of the fifteen European teams in the tournament. The one exception being Turkey. With the Netherlands absent (having been semifinalists under Hiddink in 1998), it fell to the Turks to play Dutch-style "total soccer." Despite a third-place finish Turkey was the second best team in the 2002 World Cup. (In consolation they got stadiums, bridges and streets named after them back home: a boulevard in Adana for left winger Hasan Sas, a park in Istanbul for coach Senol G�nes and a stadium in the seaside town of Zonguldak for midfielder Erg�n Penbe.)

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