World Cup flashback; Italy’s heartbreak in Daejon

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Italian hearts were broken as South Korea defeated them in the 2002 World Cup through controversial circumstances

Ahn Jung Hwan rose high above Paolo Maldini to head in the winning goal for South Korea and book their place in the quarter-finals while sending his country into total delirium and breaking Italian hearts. The 2002 World Cup will long live in the memory of many for the odd dash of dodgy officiating and possible match-fixing and the Azzurri’s game against the Taeguk Warriors encapsulated those controversies.

Italy entered the game as favourites despite underwhelming performances in the group stages of the tournament while a Guus Hiddink led South Korea were considered minnows. Asian teams had always been considered relatively as underdogs on the world stage compared to their European and South American counterparts but an evening in Daejon would change all that.

Meanwhile, the second-round match started at a frantic pace and would not be long before the Koreans won a debatable penalty in front of a partisan Korean crowd that created an electric atmosphere.  Korea would miss the penalty fortunately for the Italians. The Azzurri squad that year had an embarrassment of riches in terms of talent. And one of it was Christian Vieri; a large and powerful centre-forward who would get the first goal of the game with a thumping header from a Francesco Totti corner in the first half.

However the Taeguk Warriors were undeterred and driven on by pride and their supporters kept going on in their quest for an equaliser. It must be said that in the thick of all the action was referee Byron Moreno; who was about to be christened as the symbol of controversy that surrounded the tournament.  Indeed the Koreans would eventually equalise through Seol Ki-hyeon and force the game into extra-time where a golden goal rule meant whoever scored the next goal won.  By now Moreno, seemed to wilt, struggling to stay with the play, sometimes well behind it. He also seemed determined to help the hosts as he began giving them soft fouls which enraged Italian coach, Giovanni Trapattoni, who by this point was airing out his frustrations to the officials.

Extra-time would see dodgy officiating at work and when Damiano Tommasi scored for Italy, it was thought that the Azzurri were winners but Moreno; huffing and puffing ruled it offside, which it wasn't. Exacerbating matters for Italy was when he would hand Totti a second yellow card for diving when it was clear that the Roma stalwart was stopped illegally. Finally with three minutes left, the Koreans scored a peach of a goal by their glamour player, Ahn. It was the end for Italy but the start of a memorable tournament for that now legendary South Korean team.

 

 

 

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