South Korea stun Italy 2-1

World Cup co-host South Korea scored a stunning 2-1 win over Italy in extra time to advance to the quarter-finals.

updated: February 25, 2007 09:27 IST
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Daejeon, South Korea:

World Cup co-host South Korea scored a stunning 2-1 win over Italy in extra time today to advance to the quarter-finals. Ahn Jung-hwan scored the golden goal in the 117th minute as South Korea, which hadn't won a match at five previous trips to soccer's biggest event, set up an encounter with Spain at Ulsan on Saturday. Seol Ki-hyeon sent the match into sudden death extra-time when he swooped on a deflection from Italian defender Christian Panucci and banged in a left-foot equalizer from close range in the 88th minute. Christian Vieri had given Italy the lead with a pinpoint header in the 18th minute. The Italians were reduced to 10 men 13 minutes into extra time when Francesco Totti was called for diving by Ecuadorean referee Byron Moreno. Totti had earned a yellow card in the 22nd minute for a leaping clash with Lee Min-sung. Ahn leaped to meet a floating pass into the area and slammed the winning header past Italian 'keeper Gianluigi Buffon. The Perugia striker sprinted for the dugout, kissing the ring finger and then slumping to his knees as fireworks erupted outside the stadium and almost 40,000 fans, almost all dressed in the supporters' shirts of their beloved "Red Devils", burst into celebration. The crowd started chanting "Dae Han Min Guk'', or "Republic of Korea'', and waving the national flag as the Italians, stupefied by the result, walked for the sideline. The Koreans did a victory lap and then joined arms in front of the main stand, jumping and dancing in a line. The victory celebrations heightened the noise as the Koreans squad produced its trademark aeroplane dive at each end. Vieri's goal looked like the match winner until two minutes before the end of regulation time. The Italian striker outmanoeuvered a pack of defenders to meet Francesco Totti's corner from the left side and angled a header between Lee Woon-jae and the near post. The Italians were cool and composed in the first half but lost control and became more ragged as the match progressed. In extra time, South Korea got a free kick after 11 minutes when skipper Paolo Maldini made an illegal tackle on Park Ji-sung, but Hwang Sun-hong's shot from 20 metres was brilliantly saved by Buffon, who tipped the ball around his left post while diving at full stretch. Buffon made another critical save in the 22nd minute of extra time before Lee Woon Jae saved the Koreans with a fingertip deflection of Gennaro Gattuso's right-foot drive. Two telling tactical changes gave the Koreans added confidence in the second half. The Italians brought on Gattuso for Alessandro Del Piero to bolster defense, while South Korea's Dutch coach Guus Hiddink went on the attack, introducing striker Hwang Sun-hong for his 100th cap in place of Kim Tae-young. The Koreans dominated the attack. Vieri made a rare charge in the 73rd minute, racing into the area ahead of two defenders but mistimed his shot and caught the sidenetting. He chipped a left-foot shot over the cross bar and into the top of the netting two minutes later. Hiddink said the win was amazing. "I think it's unique what the Korean players have done here,'' said Hiddink, who took over the national squad last year. Asked who were his stand-out players, he said he couldn't pick one. "They're all best players. The players who came on and the players on the bench. We're all the best,'' he said. "The people must celebrate. They're normal, hard-working people''. After his goal, Vieri ran for the dugouts with his right forefinger to his lips, gesturing to the home crowd that the Italians were going to silence their critics. He was so wrong. Vieri's fourth goal of this tournament lifted his World Cup career tally to nine, equal with the national record shared by Roberto Baggio and Paolo Rossi. The winner was sweet for Ahn, who'd missed a penalty in the 4th minute that could have given the home team a dream start. Christian Panucci was penalized for dragging Seol Ki-Hyeon down inside the area and Ahn's right-foot strike from the spot was well saved by Italian 'keeper Gianluigi Buffon, diving at full stretch to his right. He hooked a shot across goal in the 36th minute, had a free kick ricochet off the Italian defensive wall in the 44th and spiralled a left-foot shot over the crossbar from a free kick in the 58th minute. South Korea was into the second round for the first time after topping Group D with wins over Poland and Portugal and a 1-1 tie with the United States. The 41,000-seat Daejeon World Cup Stadium was packed. Thousands more watched on TV screens outside of the stadium, joining those who had camped on a sidewalk for five days in a bid to get last-minute tickets. Italy, a three-time world champion, scraped into the knockout phase via a 1-1 tie with Mexico and courtesy of Ecuador's upset win over Croatia in Group G. The Italians had hoped to avoid a repeat of the dramatic loss to North Korea in the 1966 World Cup, which remains one of the event's biggest upsets. Tuesday's win ranks beside that. When the Italians had run onto the field, thousands of white placards raised in unison at the northern end to read: "Again, 1966". Some of the banners hoisted by Korean fans contained tougher messages like: "Porta Dell Inferno!!! Fossa Dei Giganti!!! Corea 5:0 Italy''. That translates to "Door to hell. Grave of Giants'' and forecasts a 5-0 win for the Koreans. In case the point didn't get across, another banner read simply: "Welcome to Azzurri's Tomb''. As it turned out, it was true.