Rousing cheers here for Japan’s opponentCheers resounded through South Korea last night, even though the national team wasn’t playing.
When Australia scored a goal late in the game to tie Japan at 1-1, shouts of joy could be heard from apartment complexes, similar to those heard when the national squad scores against an opponent. And the yelling continued, as Australia scored two more quick goals for a 3-1 win over Japan, South Korea’s bitter rival.
Some South Korean reporters watching the game from the media center in Germany also showed their support for Australia, which is coached by Guus Hiddink, the Dutch coach who catapulted South Korea to a surprising fourth-place finish at the 2002 World Cup here.
Foreign reporters who probably didn’t know much about the history involved between South Korea and Japan were perplexed and asked why the reporters didn’t root for an Asian team. Well aware of the emotions involved, Hiddink said earlier that he would beat the Japanese team for South Korea.
Matches between the South Korean national squad and Japan are always a high blood pressure event here.
South Korea was a Japanese colony from 1910 to 1945, when the country gained its independence.
To qualify for the 1954 World Cup, Korea had to beat Japan.
Before the team left Korea to play Japan at home, then President Syngman Rhee told the players, “If you lose, don’t even think of crossing the East Sea” to come home.
By defeating Japan 5-1 in the first game and drawing 2-2 in the second, Korea earned the right to play its first World Cup.
by Brian Lee