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Flashback: Korea Republic make quarter-final history

Thursday, July 5, 2018

With the 2018 FIFA World Cup Round of 16 concluding on Tuesday, the last eight teams have been finalised. While there are no Asian sides remaining in Russia, we wind the clock back to 2002 and recall when Korea Republic faced Spain in a memorable quarter-final clash. 

Hong Myung-bo

22nd June, 16 years ago, Korea Republic made history.



Asian teams had only once before reached the last eight – some 36 years before – let alone the final four.

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After a memorable Group Stage and historic Round of 16 victory over European heavyweights Italy, who would in four years be crowned champions themselves, the 2002 FIFA World Cup could already be considered a huge success for co-hosts Korea.



But better was yet to come when they were again pitted against Spain, eight years after a famous draw at the 1994 World Cup in which the East Asians recovered from two goals down to draw 2-2.



Indeed, several players from the 1994 encounter would play a role in Gwangju in front of a raucous home crowd.

It was to be a cagey affair. Ruben Baraja saw a headed goal disallowed for pushing in the box in the second half and Spain custodian Iker Casillas saved Park Ji-sung's powerful volley not long after at the other end.



In contrast to the regulation 90 minutes, extra-time was a scintillating spectacle as Spain and Korea sought a match-deciding golden goal.



Just two minutes into the additional 30, Spain had a second goal ruled out when Fernando Morientes headed home, and eight minutes later the same player hit the Korean post with a first-time half-volley from a throw-in.

And so it went to a penalty shootout.



Spain had already come out on top in the spot-kick lottery, after defeating Republic of Ireland in the Round of 16, while Korea had narrowly avoided one with Ahn Jung-hwan's late extra-time golden goal against Italy in the previous round.



Both sides scored their first three penalties, with current Al Sadd midfielder Xavi Hernandez, then an emerging young talent, converting one for Spain.

Ahn then slotted home his penalty to make it 4-3 before goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae saved from Joaquin Sanchez as the stadium roared with delight.



Hong was tasked with taking the decisive fifth penalty, and the captain once again delivered when it mattered most to seal a 5-3 shootout win.

The fairytale run would end at the semi-final stage as Germany’s Michael Ballack scored the only goal of the match in the second half, but that afternoon in Gwangju has been immortalised in the country’s folklore.

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