Hiddink hailed for delivering dream

 

South Korea - 2 Poland - 0It has taken South Korea 48 years to win a World Cup match, and it may take another 48 hours for their giddy public to recover from the euphoria of finally breaking that duck.

A nation erupted in celebration last night, gripped by an outpouring of joy tinged with relief. Victory at the 15th attempt, comfortably secured against a desperate Poland side with a goal in each half, sparked spontaneous street parties from Jeonju to Jeju. It is not every day that history is made, and Busan was duly lit up by crackling fireworks as the name "Guus Hiddink" echoed around the streets.

"When I started here they asked me just to win them a World Cup game, nothing more," said the Dutch coach who masterminded a 5-0 defeat of South Korea at France '98. "They'd been to five tournaments before and come away with nothing, so that was their dream. We've given that to them now. For the people of Korea, and the development of Korean football, this is an enormous day."

The fans, drums beating, were less restrained. The expectation had been so frenzied, whipped up on everything from TV to billboards. Some hospitals in Busan had recruited extra staff specialising in cardiac care just in case their hopes were dashed. They need not have worried.

After a nervy start which saw Emanuel Olisadebe and Marek Kozminski miss the Poles' chances of the match, the Red Devils found a rhythm from which they hardly wavered. Urged on by a near capacity crowd and a barrage of noise, they swept Poland aside.

Yoo Sang-chul's skimming attempt that beat Jerzy Dudek but whistled just wide was the prelude to the goal which broke the tension six minutes later. Lee Eul-yong gathered possession on the left and crossed for Hwang Sun-hong, alone in the expanse carelessly vacated between Jacek Bak and Tomasz Hajto, to place a volley between Dudek and his near post and tear to the dugout to celebrate with Hiddink. The coach, punching the air and pumped with relief, was soon lost under a clutch of bodies.

This is Hwang's third World Cup - he was denied a fourth by injury on the eve of France '98 - but he has never been in a team bristling with such purpose and driven on by such a delighted din.

Five of Poland's starters were taller than anyone the Koreans could muster and the visitors had clearly anticipated an evening of aerial dominance, thrusting six of their most imposing players into the opposition area from the kick-off.

Yet, inspired by their sweeper Hong Myung-bo, Hiddink's side dealt with the long-balls with increasing assurance. "We didn't win a ball in the air all match," Dudek said. "Playing at home, and with that crowd behind them, Korea could easily qualify."

The goalkeeper kept out Park Ji-sung's volley early in the second half, but was beaten by Yoo Sang-chul's swerving shot from just outside the area moments later. Even the South Korea president Kim Dae-jung doffed his hat in mild-mannered celebration.

Perugia's Ahn Jung-hwan then came off the bench to run rings around what was left of the Poles, putting shots into the side-netting and twice into Dudek's midriff as a deserved third goal proved elusive.

"I communicate to these players in sweat," Hiddink added. "They have enormous ambition but they ally that with intense commitment. Things have changed a lot in four months since I took the team full-time, with training twice a day like in a club. They've opened up to me."

They next play the US on Monday, opponents who were meant to offer a better chance of victory. "The players are very disciplined and I'm sure they will not be swept along by the euphoria," he added. "For a lot of the people here one victory was all that was important, but the team must be greedy. We can do real damage in this tournament."

SUBSTITUTES

South Korea: Ahn Jung-hwan for Hwang Sun-hong (51 mins); Lee Chun-soo for Yoo Sang-chul (62 mins); Cha Du-ri for Seol Ki-hyeon (90 mins).

Poland: Kryszalowicz for Zurawski (half-time); Klos for J Bak (51 mins); Marcin Zewlakow for Kaluzny (65 mins).

YELLOW CARDS

South Korea: Park Si-jung.

Poland: Krzynowek, Hajto, Swierczewski.