- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 11, 2002

DAEGU, South Korea Playing 11 on 61,000, the Americans were happy with a tie.
For much of yesterday afternoon, it appeared the United States might even beat South Korea in the World Cup and disappoint the home team's delirious fans, who filled the stadium with deafening roars and songs amid a sea of red.
Brad Friedel played the game of his life, stopping a penalty kick and making a half dozen key saves. Clint Mathis, sporting his new Mohawk hairdo, scored on one of his first touches in a World Cup.
But although the U.S. defense gave up a late goal to second-half substitute Ahn Jung-hwan who danced in honor of disqualified Olympic speedskater Kim Dong-sung the Americans scurried back to Seoul with smiles following the 1-1 tie.
"We were playing against a nation," U.S. coach Bruce Arena said, "I'm going to take it and get out of town quick."
The U.S. team needs only a tie against Poland on Friday to guarantee a spot in the second round for the first time since 1994. The Americans also can advance with a loss if South Korea beats Portugal, or if Portugal routs South Korea by far more goals than the Poles beat the United States.
After the game, the Americans headed back with their usual entourage of helicopters overhead and tanks on the tarmac, while the home team had sour faces.
"We created beautiful chances," said South Korea coach Guus Hiddink, a Dutchman. "A draw is a little bit not enough."
South Korea and the United States, which opened with a 3-2 victory over heavily favored Portugal, are 1-0-1 with four points. The co-hosts lead Group D on goal difference, plus-2 to plus-1. Portugal (1-1) has three points following its 4-0 rout of Poland (0-2), meaning the Americans will finish the first round against an eliminated team.
"It was probably four more points than anyone thought we'd have at this point," Mathis said.
South Korea's supporters started chanting and banging drums more than 2 hours before the game. A crowd of 60,778 filled picturesque Daegu World Cup Stadium, nestled at the foot of a hill. Signs hanging from the upper deck included "Hiddink! Make our dream come true!" "God Bless Corea" and "We have a dream."
Fans on one end of the lower bowl held up white cards that formed the giant letters "GO KOR 16!" signifying South Korea's quest to be among the 16 teams in the second round. During the South Korean anthem, they raised a giant South Korean flag more than 125 feet long and 50 feet high.
"I didn't understand what they were saying, but they were excellent," U.S. forward Brian McBride said. "You wished they were your fans."
There were four sections of American fans some in red, some in white and some in the Stars and Stripes. Whenever they started chants of "U-S-A!" they were drowned out by the fans of the Red Devils, who sang to Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" and repeatedly chanted "Dae-han-min-guk" (Republic of Korea).
American players took comfort that the field is surrounded by a 400-meter track, meaning only those fans with strong arms could hope to throw objects at them.
"We're used to it," said Jeff Agoos, citing the large ethnic crowds that outnumbered U.S. fans at many World Cup qualifiers back home. "We have very few home games in our country."
South Korea dominated the first 20 minutes, when the U.S. team didn't even take a shot. The Red Devils outshot the Americans 19-6 overall.
Mathis, who didn't play in the opener, looked fierce in his Mohawk and scored in the 24th minute with the U.S. team enjoying a brief man advantage. Hwang Sun-hong was badly cut above his left eye following a collision with Frankie Hejduk on a header and was being bandaged on the sideline when Mathis scored.
John O'Brien ran the ball up about 20 yards from midfield and sent over a pass. Mathis trapped it with his right foot, then kicked it with his left, shooting the ball in the corner past goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae from about 12 yards.
Friedel was picked by Arena to start his second straight game because he has superior footwork to Kasey Keller. Friedel saved Kim Nam-il's 30-yard chip with his fingertips in the 10th minute and made an excellent save with his feet on Seol Ki-hyeon's ball from the side in the 20th minute.
In the 40th, he made a super stop on Seol's heavy shot, but Swiss referee Urs Meier ruled that Agoos had dumped Hwang in the penalty area. On the penalty kick, Friedel faked left, went back to the middle and dived to his right. He blocked Lee Eul-yong's shot with both hands, and Kim's shot off the rebound went wide as Agoos and others slapped Friedel in encouragement.
"I just had a feeling he was going to go that way," Friedel said. "They changed about three penalty shooters. When a left-footer takes a penalty and he's not very confident, he'll generally push it to the easier side so he doesn't miss the net."
Kickers had been 10-for-10 this year on penalties, and in 1998 they made 17 of 18.
While the Americans had some failed chances, including a couple by Landon Donovan, they also had far more breakdowns than against Portugal. But the South Koreans squandered superb opportunities, and Friedel made great saves.
Until the 78th minute, that is.
Ahn, who entered in the 56th minute, got the joint and all of South Korea jumping when he leaped over Agoos and headed in Lee Eul-yong's free kick.
"We lost concentration for a split second and they put it away," Friedel said. "They put us under a lot of pressure in the second half, and it's hard to withstand that pressure."

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide