INCHEON, South Korea — A well-taken goal by Park Ji Sung sealed a famous 1-0 victory for South Korea against Portugal in Incheon on Friday.
And the heavily favored Portuguese didn’t make things any easier for themselves by having two men, key midfielder Joao Pinto and defender Beto Severo, sent off.
The goal put the joint host through to the final 16, but means that Portugal is the latest heavyweight football nation to be packing its bags.
“Even though Portugal is a strong team, I had no fear,” goalscorer Park said.
Arriving outside the stadium in Incheon four hours before the final — and crucial — Group D encounter, one didn’t so much follow the crowds as get swept up in the red tide. The vast majority wearing scarlet shirts with “Be the Reds!” across the front, South Korea’s supporters were vital to their team’s victory over Poland and the 1-1 draw with the U.S. South Korea’s fanatical support may not have featured in coach Guus Hiddink’s tactical plan for the match, but it again played a big part in the home team’s win.
The Portuguese, meanwhile, were bitterly disappointed at the result.
“We are very, very disappointed. This is not the result we expected when we started. We did not achieve our goal, which was to reach the second round,” Portugal coach Antonio Oliveira said afterward.
He said nobody expected South Korea and the United States, which came second in the group despite losing to Poland, to go through.
“At the end of the night, I have to compliment Korea and wish them luck and compliment our players for the great job they did tonight,” he said.
South Korea started with Jung Hwan Ahn up front, in recognition of his late equalizer against the U.S., and he set about the opposition with a verve that the Portuguese may not have been expecting.
In the third minute, Lee Young Pyo, making his first appearance in the tournament, saw an opening in the Portuguese defense and attempted a long shot that flew wide.
The partisan crowd appeared to getting to the Portuguese players, with the normally unflappable Luis Figo at times showing his frustration, and defender Jorge Costa seeming to contest every decision by referee Angel Sanchez.
Things came to a head in the 26th minute when Joao Pinto was red-carded for a bad foul on Park Ji Sung, slamming high into the playerfrom behind with both feet and wrapping them around one of his legs. To a man, the Portugal players showed their anger at the decision, some coming close to manhandling Sanchez.
The dismissal spiced up the contest to a degree, and the South Korean fans believed their team had taken the lead in the 30th minute.
However, Choi Jin Cheul’s headed goal from a corner was disallowed by a foul on goalkeeper Vitor Baia.
Portugal’s best chance of the half fell to Pauleta four minutes later, the Bordeaux forward getting between Korea’s two central defenders with a through ball and advancing on Lee Woon Jae’s goal, but he put his shot over the bar.
South Korea started the second half in confident style, creating three quick opportunities. In the 46th minute, Seol Ki Hyeon headed narrowly wide from a ball dinked into the penalty area, Kim Nam Il then drove a ball high from outside the box before Yoo Sang Chul’s meaty aerial challenge forced Rui Jorge to put a promising ball away for a corner.
In the 61st minute, Lee Woon Jae had to fist away a stooping header from Pauleta almost under his own crossbar, but the chance was a rarity.
Then came the second sending off, Beto receiving a second yellow card for a reckless foul on Lee Young Pyo after the tricky midfielder had beaten him at the touchline, leaving Portugal to compete with just nine men for the last half-hour.
It only took eight minutes for the superiority in numbers to count; Park Ji Sung taking a long left-wing cross on one foot and switching it to the other in a single movement — and taking out his covering defender in the process — before lashing it low past Vitor Baia.
Portuguese coach Antonio Oliveira reacted by bringing on Nuno Gomes for midfielder Petit, but solid defending and a hustling midfield performance kept them at bay. The substitute should have done better with a chance in the 84th minute, but miskicked a pass with just the keeper to beat.
A solid shot by Sergio Conceicao then rebounded off the inside of the Korean post, with the keeper beaten, and at the other end Ahn just let a pass get away from him as he chased it into the box, allowing Baia to clear, a feat he repeated from Seol Ki Hyeon with just seconds left on the clock.
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