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Saturday, 29 June, 2002, 07:51 GMT 08:51 UK
Hwang bows out at the top
Hwang Sun-Hong in action for South Korea against Germany
Hwang won his 100th cap against Italy
BBC Sport Online's Stuart Roach

Sixty five thousand screaming Koreans made Hwang Sun-Hong's retirement party a night to remember.

The veteran striker was denied the chance to say farewell with a goal, after a thigh injury prevented him from taking to the field during his team's 3-2 third-place play-off defeat to Turkey.

But at least he can look back on a World Cup when he has finally done himself justice.

After 14 years of wearing the colours of South Korea, Hwang announced days before the World Cup that he would be hanging up his international boots at the end of the tournament.

And in his wildest dreams, the 33-year-old striker could not have expected his swansong to have lasted to the final weekend of the World Cup.

Hwang Sun-Hong in action for South Korea against Germany
Hwang has been through highs and lows with Korea

But four weeks in Korea have been typical of Hwang's fortunes throughout his professional career.

A tournament of highs and lows in a career of rollercoaster proportions.

Hwang, who plays his club football for Kashiwa Reyson in Japan's J-League, was desperate to shine after three previous World Cup disappointments.

At club level, he has always been a prolific marksman.

And an international strike rate of a goal every other game is something to be proud of.

But, until this year, Hwang had always struggled to shine on football's biggest stage.

As a 22-year-old at Italia 90, he started as first-choice striker.

But he was dropped after the first game - a 2-0 defeat against Belgium - and only enjoyed brief substitute appearances in the defeats against Spain and Uruguay.

Back in favour for USA 94, Hwang again failed to hit the target in draws with Spain and Bolivia.

And he was heavily criticised by the Korean media for wasting a number of chances against the Bolivians.

He finally broke his World Cup duck in the final group game as Korea fought back from 3-0 down before losing 3-2 to Germany.

With his World Cup account opened, Hwang was hotly tipped to shine at France four years ago on the back of some outstanding club form for Pohang Steelers in Korea's K-League.

But his World Cup dream was wrecked by a knee injury suffered in a friendly 10 days before the tournament kicked off.

And injury struck at the last in Korea, preventing Hwang from making the farewell appearance he so badly desired.

But the co-hosts' memorable run has at last given the striker a World Cup to be proud of.

His sweetly-struck volley against Poland sent Guus Hiddink's team on their way to a first ever World Cup finals win and set the tempo for their remarkable tournament.

That was his 50th international goal for Korea and his 100th cap duly followed when he came on as a substitute against Italy.

He was the first man forward to bury a spot-kick in the shoot-out win against Spain.

And he has been a regular member of Hiddink's squad, despite younger stars emerging on the Korean scene.

The veteran striker has finally stepped aside - but not before he laid his World Cup jinx to rest.


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