Park sparks Seoul party

 

Portugal- 0 Sth Korea - 1 Nobody could fault Portugal's sense of colour co-ordination here yesterday, only the way they expressed their desire to join in. While 50,000 South Koreans turned this stadium into a mass of red, the Portuguese extended the theme to the pitch, picking up two red cards as their first participation in the World Cup finals since 1986 came to a premature and undignified close.

In the end their cheeks were red too. The best of a golden generation of players - Luis Figo, Fernando Couto et al - will be heading home today while South Korea, along with their co-hosts Japan, will continue to bring colour and the potential for more upsets.

An estimated 1.5 million people were on the streets of Seoul last night and the scenes of mass jubilation lasted well into the early hours. "This is one of our great nights," said the president Kim Dae-jung. "Now we hope we can meet Japan in the final."

The prize for Guus Hiddink's players is a second-round encounter with Italy on Tuesday while Portugal are left to reflect on the ignominy of joining the register of improbable casualties from the first phase. There was shame, too, in the manner in which they departed.

Nor was it the first time they had found it hard to take defeat with dignity. Remember their Euro 2000 semi-final against France, when Gunter Benko, the Austrian referee, was spat at, shoved and threatened with violence.

They did not lose the plot yesterday quite as histrionically as in Brussels but FIFA are likely to investigate Couto's manhandling of the referee Angel Sanchez after Joao Pinto's sending-off. Pinto's scything lunge through the calves of Park Ji-sung, an offence as needless as it was reckless, left Portugal with diminished numbers for 63 minutes, a disadvantage exacerbated midway through the second half by Beto's second booking.

Again there were prolonged protestations and Abel Xavier, in particular, seemed determined to prolong the argument afterwards, accusing Sanchez of having been influenced by a partisan, near-fanatical crowd.

It would reflect better on Portugal if they concentrated on their own performances rather than that of a referee merely applying the rules. In losing their opening game to the United States they were quite abysmal, and the knowledge yesterday that only a win would see them safely through to the next round was never matched by a sense of adventure until it was too late.

Their attitude could hardly have been in greater contrast to that of their hosts. Only one member of Hiddink's squad has attracted employers from outside the Far East but the magnitude of the occasion seems to have inspired them to exhilarating heights and, with the president watching from the VIP enclosure, their performance was brimming with industry.

Once the news filtered through that Poland were two goals ahead of the US a mood of anticlimax took hold. A draw would have been enough for both teams to qualify but once Beto had left Portugal with only eight outfield players their opponents began to answer the crowd's relentless urges.

On 70 minutes the moment arrived Lee Young-pyo swung over a deep cross over from the left to where Park, a 21-year-old with Kyoto Purple Sanga of the J-League, had positioned himself at the far post. The forward chested the ball down, flicked it past Sergio Conceicao with his right foot and volleyed a shot with his left beneath Vitor Baia. "We were always looking for a goal," said Hiddink, the Koreans' Dutch coach. "When it came it was a beautiful thing."

Pandemonium ensued in the stands but the euphoria was so nearly diluted. In a nerve-shredding finale Portugal's nine players suddenly emerged as an attacking force. Figo drifted a free-kick wide, Nuno Gomes fell over the ball with the goal beckoning and , most agonising of all, Conceicao angled a shot against the inside of the post in the last few seconds.

Guardian Service

SUBSTITUTES

Portugal: Gomes for Petit (77 mins); Xavier for Rui Jorge (73 mins). South Korea: 19-Lee for Ahn Jung (90 mins).

RED CARDS

Portugal: Pinto, Beto.

YELLOW CARDS

Portugal: Severo, Jorge Costa. South Korea: Kim Tae-young 24, Seol Ki-hyeon 57, Kim Nam-il 74, Ahn Jung-hwan