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Tuesday, 25 June, 2002, 17:43 GMT 18:43 UK

Party turns to wake

By Stuart Roach
BBC Sport Online's man in Korea

There was a kind of hush all over Korea.

Seoul had been booked as the ultimate party venue after three weeks on the road. But South Korea's celebration turned into a wake.

The final whistle in the World Cup Stadium was greeted with a widespread groan from the majority of the 65,000 crowd.

A small pocket of Germans celebrated, but their cheers were muffled in the dejected hum of Korean defeat.

The co-hosts' fans, The Red Devils, have shone a torch of enlightenment on this tournament.

The first Asian team to reach a World Cup semi-final, South Korea have progressed on a wave of emotion.

But that wave evaporated into a sea of tears following defeat at the hands of perennial party poopers Germany.

Fans who had turned the capital city's underground into a moving sardine tin before the game trickled out of the stadium with shoulders slumped.

In the heart of downtown Seoul, one image painted the perfect picture.

A young Korean fan, draped in the flag of her country, shuffled past two fellow supporters on a park bench.

"Dae Han Mig Guk", they shouted to her, the familiar chant meaning Republic of Korea which has provided the soundtrack to this remarkable tournament.

She held two fingers up in a mooted victory salute, unable to speak.

But Guus Hiddink's team have been victorious, as have the South Korean fans.

"I am happy. But I am not happy," said another supporter, portraying the mixed emotions of a semi-final stumbling block.

The silence in Seoul was deafening.

But the images painted a remarkable picture.

Virtually every fan of the home team had their face painted in some way.

A miniature Korean flag on the cheek, or the red and blue symbolising the Ying and Yang of this confident nation painted fully on the face.

For those fans, the paint was running with the tears of defeat. Ying has finally given way to Yang.

The Red Devils now have to regroup for one last party.

Having travelled to every region of South Korea, it was ironic that the bandwagon wheels fell off in Seoul.

About six million fans took to the streets up and down the country to witness the semi-final against Germany on big screens.

Less than half that number are likely to greet the third place play-off against Brazil or Turkey in Daegu.

Down and out

The parties which followed victories over Poland, Portugal, Italy and Spain went through the night.

But Tuesday's wake finished predictably early.

I nearly tripped over a fan in the gutter, pouring his heart and other internal organs down the drain.

Having been drunk on happiness for more than three weeks, the sorrow-drowning was taking its toll.

But when this nation's fans shrug off the morning-after- the-night-before hangover, they will know they have much to be proud of.

And the Red Devils will start planning another party in Daegu.

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