- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 23, 2002

GWANGJU, South Korea South Korea did it again. Next up, Germany.

The World Cup co-hosts kept their improbable World Cup run alive yesterday, upsetting Spain 5-3 in a penalty-kick shootout after a 0-0 tie to become the first Asian nation ever to reach the semifinals.

Hong Myung-bo scored the game-winner after goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae saved a penalty shot by Joaquin Sanchez.

South Korea, which hadn't won a game at five previous trips to the World Cup, will play Germany in the semifinals on Tuesday in Seoul. The three-time champion Germans beat the United States 1-0 on Friday.

South Korean coach Guus Hiddink said his team's unprecedented achievement was "so outrageous, it's almost without limits." The victory followed a 2-1, come-from-behind upset of Italy in overtime in the second round. The team also beat Portugal and Poland, and tied the Americans.

"I cannot describe how I am feeling. I am so happy for the boys. I think now it is a complete dream," Hiddink said. "I think more dreams have come true now."

It was a bitter loss for Spain, which was in its 11th World Cup. The team had several excellent scoring opportunities late in the game, hitting the post on one shot and having a goal disallowed on a questionable call by the linesman, who ruled the ball had crossed the end line.

Spain coach Jose Camacho became the latest critic of the tournament's referees. Italy also had complained.

"We expected the officiating to be better. This was a quarterfinal match after all," Camacho said.

Spain had been considered one of the tournament favorites after winning its first four games. But co-host South Korea, one of the biggest surprises of a World Cup full of upsets, had other ideas, playing solid defense and scoring on all five of its penalty kicks.

"Is it true that we are advancing to the semifinals? It's unbelievable," defender Choi Jin-Cheul said.

Besides Hong, the penalty-kick goals were scored by Hwang Sun-hong, Park Ji-sung, Seol Ki-hyeon and Ahn Jung-hwan. For Spain, Fernando Hierro, Ruben Baraja and Xavi Hernandez scored. The team did not take its last kick.

When Sanchez approached the ball to take his penalty shot, he hesitated for a moment, then tried to place it in the right side of the goal. Lee guessed correctly, diving to his left to punch out the ball.

"I was very confident and expected I could save one or two penalty kicks," Lee said. "I missed the first three penalty shots, so I thought to myself, 'Do not move, rather wait for the ball.' Finally, Joaquin kicked the ball almost straight to me."

Moments after Lee's save, Hong, the South Korean captain, sealed the victory with his right-footed shot past goalkeeper Iker Casillas and into the right corner of the net. The 42,000 red-clad fans erupted in joy for the home team, screaming, singing and jumping up and down.

The players took a victory lap around the field, holding flags over their heads. Hiddink and his staff linked arms near the dugout.

Then, as the whole team danced in a long line, Hiddink carried two game balls and, giving the thumbs-up sign, walked slowly over to one end of the field and booted them into the crowd.

For a while, it looked as if the few Spanish supporters would be the ones celebrating.

In the 10th minute of overtime, Fernando Morientes almost scored the game-winner when his right-footed drive sailed past Lee and hit the left post.

Morientes, starting as the lone striker for Spain in the absence of injured teammate Raul Gonzalez, had scored three goals in four previous games but couldn't get the one his country desperately needed.

"It was tough for us because of our injuries. We're out, but we worked hard, they were just a little bit luckier than we were," Camacho said.

Lee Chun-soo had two shots in extra time and set up a chance for Hwang in the 110th minute, but the veteran striker missed his timing and bounced a weak shot to Casillas.

The Spaniards had goals disallowed in each half of regulation time on offside calls and a third in overtime. Morientes looked as if he had scored from close-range off a pass from Sanchez, but Sanchez was ruled to have dribbled out along the end line. Replays showed the ball never fully crossed the line.

When Hiddink took over the South Korean team 18 months ago, it was struggling. Now it is one victory from the World Cup final.

Hiddink guided his native Netherlands to the semifinals four years ago in France and he is now the only coach to take two nations to the semis.

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