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Turkey Wastes Little Time

Third place: Sukur's goal 11 seconds into game is fastest in Cup history and sparks 3-2 win over South Korea.

June 30, 2002|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

YOKOHAMA, Japan — Even in its penultimate game, even when the 2002 World Cup had little more than 24 hours of life left in it, still the surprises kept coming.

On Saturday night, in the South Korean city of Daegu, a 40-year record was broken when Turkey's Hakan Sukur scored the fastest goal in the 72-year history of the tournament.

Sukur's goal, a mere 11 seconds into the third-place game, sent the Turks on their way to a 3-2 victory over co-host South Korea and earned them their best-ever finish in the World Cup.

The crowd of 63,483 was treated to one of the most entertaining matches of the tournament, an end-to-end affair that featured five goals and twice as many chances. The Turks won, but the Koreans walked off the field as winners too.

Fourth place was better than any of them had dared hope they would achieve. It was the best finish ever by an Asian team.

Not surprisingly, the fans were reluctant to see the party end.

Long after referee Saad Mane of Kuwait had sounded the final whistle, tens of thousands of "Red Devils" still were cheering goal scorers Lee Eul-Yong and Song Chong-Gug and the rest of their heroes and showing no sign of wanting to go home.

South Korea's players responded with a celebration of their own.

They formed a circle at midfield, got down on their knees and bowed their thanks to the throng of red-clad fans. Then they found Chung Mong-Joon, president of South Korea's soccer federation, a FIFA vice president and a man who, it is widely believed, soon will make a bid for the country's presidency.

No matter his status, they tossed him in the air three times.

Guus Hiddink, the Dutch coach who has been the inspiration for the team's success and soccer's remarkable rise in popularity in South Korea, was next. He also was hoisted into the night sky, pumping his fist in an emphatic gesture at the apex of one toss, and later blowing kisses to all and sundry.

"I think they have shown the world what they can do," he said of his players. "Not only in team spirit but in the way they play."

The way they played Saturday was the same way they have played throughout the tournament, in a fast-paced, attacking style that kept the pressure on the Turks even while they were conceding goals at the other end.

The game began with a moment of silence in honor of the four South Korean sailors killed earlier in the day in a sea battle with North Korean forces.

Chung said he hoped the North Koreans' attack had not been tied to South Korea's success in the tournament.

"I hope their actions were not motivated by the World Cup in any way," he said. "It is a very unfortunate incident. I hope that it does not lead to greater conflicts."

The match started out in dramatic fashion, with the ball finding its way into the back of the net three times in the first dozen minutes.

Sukur got things rolling with the fastest goal in World Cup history, a strike that erased the 15-second goal Czechoslovakia's Vaklav Masek scored against Mexico in the 1962 World Cup in Chile.

It was a gift from the South Korean defense.

The Koreans kicked off, passing the ball back into their own defense but Turkey's Ilhan Mansiz stole it from veteran defender Hong Myung-Bo, playing in his 132nd and final match for the national team, and passed to Sukur for the striker to steer a shot past goalkeeper Lee Woon-Jae.

It was Sukur's record 30th goal in 80 games for Turkey, but his first in what had been a disappointing tournament for him.

"The goal was late in coming, I had to wait until today," he said. "We got a good win and showed that if we had been in the final [instead of Brazil and Germany] we would have won."

South Korea tied the score in the ninth minute on a superb free kick by Lee Eul-Yong, who curled the ball over the Turks' defensive wall and into the upper right corner of the net, kissing the post on the way.

But Mansiz, Sukur's heir apparent as Turkey's top forward, scored his third and fourth goals of the World Cup in the 13th and 32nd minutes as the Turks controlled the first half.

The South Koreans fought back in the second 45 minutes, but goalkeeper Rustu Recber was again in top form and denied them time and again.

Finally, in injury time, Song scored to make the final margin of difference only a single goal and allow the fans to celebrate as if they had won.

In many ways, they had.

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