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The conspiracy theory: South Korea's route to the semi-finals

Mary Hannigan looks back on South Korea's results and highlightsreasons why Portugal, Italy and Spain might point to a conspiracy…

Mary Hannigan looks back on South Korea's results and highlightsreasons why Portugal, Italy and Spain might point to a conspiracy

v USA (group stage)

The Americans, leading 1-0 at the time, weren't best pleased when Jeff Agoos was adjudged to have brought down Hwang Sun-Hong in the box - the resulting penalty was saved by Brad Friedel but South Korea went on to equalise 12 minutes from time.

v Portugal (group stage)

The Portuguese were reduced to nine men after Joao Pinto and Beto were sent off. No arguments about Pinto's dismissal (for a two-footed tackle) but some considered Beto's second booking to be harsh. Portugal weren't happy, but it could have been worse - Fernando Couto should have been sent off for man-handling the referee. South Korea won 1-0.

v Italy (second round)

The Italians were incensed when referee Byron Moreno chose just to give Kim Tae-young a talking to after he elbowed Alessandro Del Piero following a tussle between the pair.

v Italy (second round)

Thirteen minutes into extra-time Francesco Totti was sent off (second yellow card) after Moreno ruled that he had dived in the penalty area. Again, there were mixed views on the decision, but the replay showed that Song Chong-gug made contact, at the very least, with Totti.

v Italy (second round)

In the 20th minute of golden goal extra-time Damiano Tommasi broke clear, rounded goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae and scored but was wrongly ruled offside and the goal was disallowed.

v Spain (quarter-finals)

Five minutes after half-time a Spanish free-kick from the right hit the back of Kim Tae-young and flew into the net as a group of players went up for the header - but the goal was disallowed, apparently for a push by Ivan Helguera on the Korean defender.

v Spain (quarter-finals)

Luis Enrique was through, one on one with the South Korean goalkeeper, when he was called offside - he was onside.

v Spain (quarter-finals)

In the second minute of extra-time Fernando Morientes thought he had scored the golden-goal winner when he headed home a Joaquin cross, but the effort was ruled out after the linesman adjudged that the ball had crossed the deadball line - it clearly hadn't.

v Spain (quarter-finals)

South Korean goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae saved Joaquin's penalty in the shoot-out, but had clearly moved off his line long before the Spaniard had struck the ball.

. . . and why the Italians are feeling aggrieved: five disallowed goals

1 v Croatia (group stage) - Christian Vieri scored with a diving header but Danish linesman Jens Larsen incorrectly judged him to be offside.

2 v Croatia (group stage): Filippo Inzaghi had a goal disallowed in the 91st minute, when Italy were 2-1 down, with the linesman ruling that he had tugged the shirt of Dario Simic. Simic appeared to be doing considerably more shirt-pulling than the Italian.

3 v Mexico (group stage): Inzaghi turned and fired past Oscar Perez, the Mexican goalkeeper, but the Malaysian assistant referee raised his flag for offside - Inzaghi was level with the last defender and the goal should have stood. The game finished 1-1.

4 v Mexico (group stage): Vincenzo Montella chipped Perez from the edge of the box but the assistant referee called it as offside. The tightest call of the five.

5 v South Korea (second round): A golden-goal "winner" by Damiano Tommasi, 20 minutes into extra-time, was wrongly ruled offside.

Italy v South Korea

"We should be refereed by the best, not by a guy who is 20 kilos overweight."

- Italian defender Alessandro Nesta.

"You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to know that something stinks."

- La Repubblica.

"They aren't referees, but the thieves of dreams."

- Il Messaggero.

"An indecent and scandalous referee! I've never seen a match like that. It seemed like they got around a table and decided in advance to throw us out."

- Italy's Public Administration Minister Franco Frattini.

"Italy counts for nothing in those places where they decide the results and put together million-dollar deals. Shame on you gentlemen of FIFA and your dirty games."

- La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"No other team in the entire history of the World Cup has suffered so many injustices."

- Corriere della Sera.

"Byron Moreno can wander freely in the corridors of FIFA and those of the Korean government. But if he wants to come to Italy he had better bring a lawyer."

- Il Giornale.

"It's a sign of protest for the refereeing that Italy have had to put up with."

- Football sticker-album makers Panini announcing that they were taking their World Cup edition off the shelves in protest at Italy's elimination from the World Cup.

"If I'm not mistaken, no team in a World Cup has been given as many unmerited slaps in the face as Italy. Why so much aversion to Italy and so many favours for Brazil, who were thankful for a non-existent penalty and the lack of a red card for the farce staged by Rivaldo?"

- Diego Maradona.

The ref fights back . . . .

"Italians are talking about kickbacks or bribes because they use this form of corruption a lot. It reflects what they did or what they can do. I heard what the Perugia president said about the Korean scorer Ahn . . . well, that gives you an idea about the Italians' moral weight. Italians are immature."

- Referee Byron Moreno, in an interview with Corriere della Sera.

"I have not damaged any team. It's painful for Italy to go out but don't blame Mr Moreno. Blame yourselves."

- Moreno, again.

FIFA reaction . . . .

"Sadly, and I have suffered greatly because of it, there have been exceptional circumstances and coincidences that saw many errors consecutively made against the same team, Italy."

- FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

"Conspiracy theories crop up in all walks of life and in 99 per cent of cases they are unfounded. This one is one of the 99 per cent."

- FIFA chairman Keith Cooper.

South Korea v Spain . . .


- Headline in Spanish newspaper Marca.

"Football received a mortal blow today. The refereeing of the Egyptian Ghandour and his assistants Ali Tomusange and Michael Ragoonadh will go down in the annals of global shame."

- Marca, again.

"Hands Up!"

- Diario AS continues the "robbery" theme.

"Spain suffered one of the great robberies in having two legal goals disallowed."

- El Mundo.

"We have become just one more victim. Is it a scandal? Right now it seems to me that it is."

- Spanish manager Jose Camacho.

"We all thought about what has happened in Korea's games so far, but were not very concerned because you never feel that this kind of thing can happen to you. But there were four or five decisions in the match that I found very difficult to understand. You want to believe that they can be put down to human error, but I really am not sure about that."

- Spanish captain Fernando Hierro.

"We must leave when we clearly showed we were superior and that's what hurts more. It wasn't a matter of luck but a matter of two legal goals the referee robbed us of. Italy and Portugal suffered the same situation but I couldn't ever have expected it would be so flagrant in the quarter-finals because the whole world was watching."

- Camacho.

"The losing team should look in the mirror. Not look to external circumstances."

- Guus Hiddink, South Korea's coach.