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Wednesday, 26 June, 2002, 22:10 GMT 23:10 UK

Battle of the bridesmaids

By Alex Trickett
BBC Sport Online

World Cups are remembered for thrilling finals, last-gasp winners in knockout games and acts of heroic giantkilling.

Few fans dwell on third-place play-offs between reluctant sides still preoccupied with the mistakes that cost them a place in the big showdown.

And for many players the disappointment of semi-final defeat far outweighs the desire to play yet another game.

But this year's match between beaten semi-finalists South Korea and Turkey will be the biggest of its kind.


It will see the co-hosts give their adoring fans a final memory to cherish in what has been a quite amazing World Cup campaign.

Guus Hiddink's men take on Turkey in the battle of the bridesmaids and on this occasion Fifa's decision to persist in what many deem a meaningless match is justified.

In fairness, the World Cup's penultimate game has benefited some over the years.

Golden Boot chasers

Five of the last nine Golden Boot winners have plundered goals in the play-off.

Faced with a game of little importance, strikers in contention for that prestigious goalscoring award tend to add to their tallies in traditionally open, care-free encounters.

Juste Fontaine - scorer of 13 goals in 1958 - hit the target four times during a 6-3 win for France over West Germany.

The result offered little comfort to his team-mates following their 5-2 loss to eventual winners Brazil in the semi-finals.

But it helped Fontaine beat the previous tournament best of 11 goals - set by Sandor Kocsis in 1954 - and etched his name into the record books.

Since then, Eusebio, Grzegorz Lato, Toto Schillaci and Davor Suker - during France 98 - have sealed their legendary status with strikes in the play-off game.


Historically, the less fancied team has done well in the third-place play-off.

Buoyed by giantkilling memories from earlier in the tournament, they tend to play with less regret than the side that was expected to reach the final.

And they use the occasion to show the world again that they belong in football's elite.

Poland, for example, have twice lost in the World Cup semi-finals.

But, as over-achievers in 1974 and 1982, they rebounded on both occasions to snatch third place at the expense of bitterly-disappointed opponents Brazil and France.

Similarly, at the last World Cup, shock semi-finalists Croatia reacted better to missing out on the final than the supremely-talented Holland squad.


As painful as home defeat in the semi-finals invariably is, there is slightly more onus on the hosts to put in one more strong performance in front of their fans.

When Korea take to the field on Saturday, they will become the third home team to play the consolation game.

The other two - Chile in 1962 and Italy in 1990 - won their final matches.

The 1990 showdown between Italy and England was overshadowed by recriminations as both camps lamented their narrow defeats in the previous round.

But it was not by chance that the Azzurri ran out as winners. They were the hungrier side and prevailed 2-1 to restore some damaged pride on home soil.

There is a good chance that Korea - who had never before won a World Cup finals game before this tournament - will lift themselves on Saturday.

If history is anything to go by, they may give their fans one last, memorable win.

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