June 18th June 18th, 2002 South Korean team played in the 1/8 finals of the World Cup
Eliminated Italy, 20 years later today, “Gazzetta dello Sport” also exclusively interviewed Ahn Jung-hwan, who scored the winning golden goal for the South Korean team.
Let’s talk about what happened that year. Do you still have any impressions of Italy vs. South Korea?
I still remember everything that happened twenty years ago, it was a special game for me and my country, when no one believed we could beat Italy, after all this time people are still talking about refereeing
Some decisions, but I think just looking at our preparation and the way we played is enough to tell the story.
Guus Hiddink has made us a strong team physically and mentally and we are not afraid of anyone.
But do you think Byron Moreno’s decision didn’t affect the final result of the game?
We have always respected the referee’s decision, they are the final decision maker and the decision is irrevocable, whether Moreno made a mistake or not, without VAR, every whistle will create controversy, we accept everything, even some
The result was painful for us.
The fact is that we prepared well for the game against Italy and we studied every Italian player in great detail.
In your opinion, did the South Korean team deserve their victory?
Yep, look at how South Korea fared in friendly matches leading up to the 2002 World Cup, we lost just two of our eight games against Uruguay and France, Guus Hiddink did a great job of turning us into
Completely different players, I think we were the biggest dark horses in that tournament.
You did well in that World Cup also thanks to being able to play in front of the home crowd…
Regarding the goal against Italy, a lot of people thought I was a hero, but on the contrary, it was not like that at all, because we were one and everyone supported me.
2002 was an unforgettable year for Korea as a country. I just want to do my best and bring out the best. This is the right time to show our national team’s commitment and sense of responsibility.
Unfortunately, after the quarter-final against Spain, we got tired in the semi-final against Germany and lost the game, but it’s still a big challenge to get here.
Twenty years later, the only man still active in football from that game is Buffon…
He was pretty much hell for me because the penalty I missed could make me a sinner for the whole of Korea.
There is no doubt that Buffon has been the best goalkeeper in Italy for many years, and I think he is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. I know he plays in Parma and I hope he can continue to play. I respect it
How did you join Perugia in 2000?
In those years, Daewoo Industrial Group was engaged in football in South Korea, and established a partnership opportunity with Perugia, which can promote the business activities of Chairman Gauchi. I first played for Busan Daewoo Royal Football Club, and then landed in Serie A.
What are your memories of early Italian football?
Cosmi is my coach, he cares about me, he knows that it is not easy for a young Asian to go to a different environment and adapt to it, he keeps asking me how I fit in, both on and off the field
What impressed me the most was the chairman Gauchi in a coat and hat. His son Ricardo has always been very good to me, but the decision to kick me out of the team was too bad.
What happened next?
My goal ruined Italian football, so they stopped paying me and I was forced to leave, not by choice, but I don’t regret it.
You played in Serie A for two years until you left in 2002, playing against great champions like Zidane and Totti.
In fact, I watched them from the bench more often, but I also played 30 games in two seasons. It is a dream to play against them face to face. Del Piero has always been my favorite player.
Then I had the opportunity to play against him in the World Cup. Inzaghi and Totti are also very strong. Playing in Serie A is a wonderful experience.
Can we say that Italy is a label in your career?
Of course, today I want to say to all Italians: please don’t hate me anymore, as a Korean player, I just fight for my country and I don’t want to hurt anyone.
I had a great time in Italy and always worked harder than everyone else, and I just wanted to repay the trust of the fans with my goal against Italy in the World Cup.
20 years later, everyone still remembers that game…
One day, I hope I can go back to Italy, I want to express my heartfelt thanks to the Italian fans, maybe soon I will be able to greet those who still remember me.