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Tuesday, 25 June, 2002, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK

Grim end to Korea's fairytale

By Stuart Roach
BBC Sport Online's man in Korea

South Korea's World Cup dream was ended in Seoul as Germany apparently ignored the script that had the co-hosts waltzing into the final.

At least, that is what some would have you believe.

Most right-minded supporters know such claims are nonsense, and so much for all the conspiracy theories.

This was simply a Korean fairytale that did not have a happy ending.

An old proverb has been much quoted in Korea this week.

"Luck is where preparation and fortune collide", it reads.

That perfectly sums up this side's unbelievable run, from a team that had never won a World Cup finals game to the semi-final in five giant strides.

But luck and preparation have a habit of missing each other when sides face the Germans.

Ruthlessly efficient and organised to perfection, Rudi Voeller's German side bears the hallmark of the great sides, if not the talent.

This Korean team has been to every region of their home country, apart from the capital.

On Tuesday, Seoul rocked from the banks of the River Han to the bowels of the frantic metro system with the noise coming out of the stadium.

The giant screens at either end of the mighty World Cup Stadium feature a barometer to measure crowd noise.

A football clapometer, it flashes green, yellow pink on a rising scale. When the Koreans were on the ball, the crowd were always in the pink.

When they didn't, the crowd booed to generate a throaty low hum floating under the overhanging stadium roof.

The noise was constant. Boo-yeah-boo. It sounds like one of the Korean substitutes.

On the pitch, the Korean team scrapped manically to keep the Germans in check.

The back four fought like stags, locking horns with the dangerous German front pair of Oliver Neuville and Miroslav Klose, who shares the lead for the golden boot.

So much for a height advantage.

In Choi Jin-Cheul, Korea had a defender who towered above even Klose, and the rest of the back four coped tirelessly with the predictable aerial assault.

Oliver Bierhoff's introduction as a replacement for Klose was a tribute to that fact.

But Germany's possession was wearing.

The 'boo breaks' in between the screams got progressively longer, a sure indication of the Germans' growing stranglehold on the game.

And the loss of Choi because of injury was crucial.

Sixteen minutes from time, Neuville's low cross found its way into a Choi-shaped hole in the defence and Michael Ballack was allowed two attempts to stroke home the winner.

It was a bitter-sweet moment for the midfielder, whose booking two minutes earlier means he will miss the final through suspension.

For Korean fans there is a silver lining in the cloud of defeat.

Remaining at home for Saturday's third-place play-off is the perfect excuse for another peninsular party.

For Germany, the lining could be pure gold.

And how ironic it would be if this tournament of shocks produced a final between the two most successful teams in World Cup history.

Over to you, Brazil.


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