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Thursday, 6 June, 2002, 05:21 GMT 06:21 UK
Far East fans rise to occasion
Japanese fans show their support
Japan earned their first World Cup point
BBC Sport Online's Phil McNulty


South Korea and Japan woke up to the World Cup in spectacular fashion amid prolonged scenes of hysteria as the co-hosts took to the stage.

South Korea's victory against Poland in Busan - coupled with Japan's excellent performance in the 2-2 draw against Belgium in Saitama - has sparked a rapturous reaction in the Far East.

The World Cup almost made a polite entrance into the host countries - who were as concerned about the ticketing fiasco that has led to empty seats at grounds supposedly guaranteed to be packed.

This was all forgotten as football finally pushed its way to the front of the national psyche in both countries.

In Tokyo, 48,000 fans gathered at the National Stadium simply to watch the game on big screens, a bigger crowd than has attended many games.

And stadiums, sports auditoriums and sports-based restaurants were full of fans cheering on the Japanese team as they played their first game.

Japanese television has been packed with images of normally bustling cities in a state of relative desertion, as well as shots of some fans being stretchered to ambulances when the celebrations simply became too much for them.

A Japanese fan enjoys his side's 2-2 draw with Belgium
It all gets too much for one Japanese fan
The Asahi Shimbun, the English-speaking Japanese newspaper, was gloriously impartial in its coverage as it reflected on a night of glory that left both countries in a state of euphoria.

"Asian fans are equally hysterical" announced the headline, reflecting on the joy in Korea and Japan.

Fans, who in both countries had flirted with the showpiece with a courteous enthusiasm, were suddenly locked in a full embrace with the World Cup.

In Saitama, where England played Sweden, the atmosphere built hours before the game and the Japanese national flag, the Hinomaru, was on show all over the ground.

"Welcome to blue heaven" screamed one banner - and the Japanese fans almost were in heaven, only for Junichi Inamoto's goal to be ruled out.

Other headlines read "Supporters sail in sea of blue" and "Inamoto nets Japan's sweetest goal" after the country earned their first World Cup point.

In the spirit of co-operation, other headlines in the Japanese media read "Historic triumph for South Korea".

Even outside Saitama, Japanese fans gathered in other big cities to cheer on their heroes, with 1,800 people at the Osaka Dome in Nishi Ward to watch the Belgium game on three 600-inch widescreens.

In Sapporo, many flocked to the Sapporo Media Park Spica Dome to watch, making up for the fact that they have been unable to get tickets for the local matches played in their city.

Commuters read about South Korea's 2-0 win over Belgium
A Korean fan reads all about his team's success

The Japan Times was slightly more subdued, announcing "Japan draws with Belgium in seesaw thriller".

But The International Herald Tribune was lavish in its praise of South Korea's Dutch coach Guus Hiddink, insisting he was "the man whose popularity is rising higher than the President's".

It was not all scenes of celebration, however, with reports of one man smashing a glass door at a ticketing office.

He was, it was claimed, unable to connect to the busy Fifa website, and lost his temper when told the office only held tickets bought over the internet.

But it was a celebrating Korea and Japan that woke up on the morning after a glorious night before - long may it continue.

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