Millions in streets heed the call to'Be the reds!'

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Millions in streets heed the call to'Be the reds!'

South Korean soccer fans formed waves of red Friday to cheer the Korean team in its match against Portugal. Police estimated that some 2.8 million people gathered outdoors at 260 places -- well over twice the crowd that assembled for Monday's Korea-U.S. meeting.

City Hall plaza was Cheers Central, drawing the largest congregation, 200,000. The police stationed 6,000 officers at Gwanghwamun and City Hall, in downtown Seoul, to prevent violence in the event of a Korean defeat. The Portuguese Embassy at Samcheong-dong, northern Seoul, was also tightly guarded.

Red-clad fans began gathering in central Seoul early Friday morning. Many arrived early to occupy places offering the best views of the giant television screens. Drivers and passers-by chanted "Dae-han-min-guk" -- Republic of Korea, the Red Devil cheer.

Lee Hye-jin, Lee Eun-ju, Im Yun-hui and Yu Yeon-ju, classmates at Sahmyook University, took their places at 8:30 a.m., 12 hours before the match. The girls took turns going to the rest room leaving a detail to protect the seats for later-arriving friends. They ate gimbap, rice rolls, on the street for lunch and breakfast.

Some 100 disabled members of Holt Children's Services cheered the national team in chairs and wheelchairs at Daehangno, where the communication company KTF installed two giant television screens.

"It was so wonderful cheering with so many people," said Lee Gwi-ja, 48, who has cerebral palsy.

Foreign visitors also joined the outdoor cheering. "I was overwhelmed by the Koreans' fervent cheering," said Michael Thomas, 28, a Canadian wearing a red shirt. He joined the crowd immediately after he checked in to his hotel. Luis Silva, a 28-year-old Portuguese, said the solidarity of the Korean cheering against his favorites was impressive.

Concentration wavered at workplaces and schools.

"I exchanged e-mails with my friends wishing for the Korean team to qualify for the round of 16," said Jo Geun-ho, an office worker. Jo Seung-hui, who watched the game in her office with colleagues, said that soccer united the teammates and made her feel proud to be Korean.

Konkuk University, from which the Korean players Hwang Sun-hong, Yoo Sang-chul and Lee Young-pyo graduated, cheered the team at its compound Monday. The school's rock band and percussion performed.

by Lee Seung-nyeong, Sung Ho-jun

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