For today’s Throwback Thursday, I want to revisit one of my favorite matches ever: South Korea v. Italy in the 2002 World Cup, co-hosted by South Korea and Japan.
Obviously, the best thing about this match is that South Korea bumped Italy from the tournament with a 2-1 result earned in extra time. In order for you to understand how momentous this was for my (at the time) 14-year old self, you must grasp the enormity of my derision for the Italian national team. I have nothing against Italy (it is a beautiful country) or Italians, but I cannot STAND their national team. They could teach a master class in dramatics. (Remember, I only tell you this in order to set the scene.)
As I said before, the game was won in extra time on a header by Ahn Jung Hwan. If you are especially motivated, you can watch the entire highlight reel. Otherwise, skip to about minute 9, which is when extra time starts.
The home fans were jubilant. The Italians were dejected. I was elated. Also, tickled. Did you notice the guy with the gauze beanie? This dude had gotten a knock on the head (not funny) and was forced to wear this questionable headgear for the rest of the match in order to stop the bleeding. I thought he looked ridiculous and that it was the greatest thing ever. (Wow, I was a cold-hearted 14-year old!)
As you can imagine–or may remember–there was all sorts of controversy over this match and the refereeing, as the result was no doubt affected by Francesco Totti’s send-off after receiving a second yellow card for diving. Add that to the sheer shock of superpower Italy falling to South Korea, of all countries; plus the usual Italian dramatics (did you see the coach’s reaction to the send-off?) and you can see what a big deal this game was at the time.
South Korea went on to beat Spain (yes, Spain!) in penalty kicks in the next round, and eventually lost to Turkey to finish fourth in the tournament. Questionable refereeing aside (after all, when is there not some controversy over calls?), it was a pretty impressive finish for a country not exactly known for its football prowess.