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Korea parties on after World Cup win

Italians blame referee

Celebrations erupted when Ahn Jung-hwan scored the 'golden goal'
Celebrations erupted when Ahn Jung-hwan scored the 'golden goal'  

SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea is recovering from a wild night of celebrations that showed no sign of abating on Wednesday following their team's stunning World Cup second round win over Italy.

Millions of Koreans headed to work bleary and hung over, while others understandably took the day off, after a massive party which erupted when the "golden goal" an entire nation was praying for came in the final minutes of extra time. (Photo gallery)

Police officials said that almost 5 million people took to the streets in South Korea, 1.5 million in the capital Seoul alone, washing cities with the red colors of the national team.

The source of jubliation: striker Ahn Jung-hwan's header in extra time that gave Korea a 2-1 victory over the Italians and sealed the tournament co-host's path to the quarter-finals.

It was the second Korean team to beat Italy in the World Cup -- the first was a plucky North Korean outfit that dispatched the Italians home from England in 1966. No other Asian side has gone as far in the tournament. (World Cup: Special section)

There were reminders of that feat at the Daejeon stadium on Tuesday with fans flipping thousands of red and white cards spelling out "Again 1966."

"South Koreans have waited 40 years for their chance to emulate the North," said the English language Korean Times newspaper.

"Veni, vidi, vici," splashed the headline across the Chosun Ilbo newspaper, "Warriors have finally crossed the Rubicon and entered Rome."

"Hiddink troops have surprised the world and created new history," said another headline in the paper, elevating Dutch coach Guus Hiddink ever closer to demi-god status with many Koreans saying he would be a shoe-in for president should he decide to run.


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The Korean side now advance to face Spain in the city of Gwangju Saturday, a match expected to again bring the entire nation to a halt and set Asian football firmly on the global stage.

The match itself had an almost fairy-tale ending with striker Ahn Jung-hwan -- who had missed a penalty in the opening minutes of the first half -- flicking the ball into the net, ending the game and lighting the fuse for a night of explosive celebrations. (Match report)

"The God of soccer has provided a last chance for Ahn Jung-hwan," said the Chosun Ilbo Daily.

Bu the plaudits in the Korean media were reserved for striker Seol Ki-hyeon who equalized against Italy two minutes from the end of the first 90 minutes.

The Korean hero was nicknamed "Seolvaldo," combining his name with Brazilian star Rivaldo.

The co-host nation could have won the trophy itself as Koreans marked the country' first-ever entry into the World Cup quarterfinals with dancing, fireworks and a spontaneous outpouring of national emotion.

After the dramatic end to one of the most exciting matches of the tournament, people danced, jumped and yelled team chants as pop music thudded across the city. Chants of "Dae Han Min Kuk!" -- "Republic of Korea!" were deafening.

Thousands of firecrackers illuminated the night sky of the capital. Whistles blew and car horns blared. Endless streams of light soared over a 10-lane thoroughfare in central Seoul.

Italians blame referee

Disbelief on the faces of fans in Milan after the game
Disbelief on the faces of fans in Milan after the game  

It was all very different from the scene in Italy where fans hugged each other in silence or wept openly.

A pummeling of rotten fruit and vegetables greeted the Italian team after their World Cup exit in 1966 after their underestimated the North Koreans. But the immediate reaction was an outpouring of hatred for the match referee many Italians say "robbed" the Azzurri of victory. (Italians blame referee)

South Korea, co-host of the World Cup with Japan, progressed to the quarterfinals in extra time after the match was tied 1-1 during 90 minutes of regulation time.

Earlier in the day, Japan, the other co-host, tumbled out of the World Cup with a 1-0 loss to Turkey. (Turkey v Japan)

The South Koreans had initially considered a single victory at the World Cup to be a success. That and more was achieved when South Korea, which had never won a game in five previous trips to the World Cup, beat Portugal and Poland and tied the United States to win its group.

Three-time champion Italy squeaked into the second round after losing to Croatia and tying Mexico.




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