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South Korea Cashes In

Group D: Goals by Hwang and Yoo beat Poland, 2-0, in country's first World Cup victory in 15 attempts.

June 05, 2002|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SEOUL — South Koreans celebrated late into the night Tuesday after their country won its first World Cup game in 15 attempts dating to 1954.

Goals by Hwang Sun-Hong and Yoo Sang-Chul were enough to defeat Poland, 2-0, in front of a near-sellout crowd of 48,760 at Asiad Main Stadium in the seaport city of Busan. One of the fans present was South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung.

The victory puts additional pressure on the United States and Portugal, who also are in Group D. The U.S. plays South Korea on Monday in Daegu.

The Koreans took the game to the Poles from the outset and it soon was clear that the home team was not only better supported but also much faster and technically superior. Poland looked slow and ponderous by comparison.

Hwang gave South Korea the lead in the 26th minute with a stupendous goal. Left unguarded by the Polish defense, he had space and time to volley Lee Eul-Yong's cross from the left powerfully into the back of the net past stunned Polish goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek.

It was Hwang's 50th goal for his country in his 98th national team game.

Yoo's goal in the 53rd minute was equally powerful as he unleashed a shot that flew into the net off the diving Dudek's fingertips.

"I'm delighted at the way we played," said South Korea's Dutch coach, Guus Hiddink, who had coached the Netherlands to the semifinals of the France '98 World Cup.

"This is a historic game for Korea. The players have worked hard and this victory was their reward. It wasn't just about the goals but the concept of the way we played. They attacked from the first minutes and I'm very proud of them."

South Korea, which had lost 10 and tied four of its previous World Cup matches, could have won by a larger margin but for some near misses and some fine saves by Dudek.

Poland had not qualified for the finals since 1986 and it showed.

"The absence contributed to our defeat," Coach Jerzy Engel said. "Sometimes it is like that after 16 years. Our players maybe thought that they had done everything they had to do when they qualified, but it is not like that.

"It was always going to be very, very difficult to play the host nation in the opening game."

With the game secured and only a couple of minutes left, Hiddink made a nod of recognition to South Korea's all-time best player, Cha Bum-Kun, by sending his 21-year-old son, Cha Doo-Ri, into the game.

It was a night when many South Koreans were chanting and marching through the streets long after midnight.

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