This article was first featured in Issue 5 of the Box To Box magazine on the 2002 World Cup with words by Jed Woodcock. Issue 5: 2002 is available to order here.
The two national anthems still echo around the stadium, the South Korean tune is sombre in comparison to the Turks’ effort preceding it. Not one of the Koreans sing along, merely holding their hand to the badge on their red shirts, whilst a line of mascots stand miserably in front and the recognisable Taegukgi flag billows as supporters lift it collectively above their heads as it covers the south stand of the Daegu World Cup Stadium.
Unsurprisingly it’s another great rendition from Turkey on the singing front, aside from German-born Yıldıray Baştürk who doesn’t seem to know the words. Alpay, in particular, putting everything into it. Alpay, one-half of arguably the most talented defences in Europe alongside Olof Melberg at Villa Park last year, has been one of the most impressive defenders in the tournament, despite missing two group games after getting a red card in the first game of the tournament as Turkey fell to a 2-1 defeat against Brazil. In said game where Turkey finished the game with nine men, it wasn’t Alpay’s red card that caught the headlines but Hakan Ünsal who received his second yellow after kicking the ball at Rivaldo which struck him with a crushing blow to his leg, leading the Brazilian to collapse in a heap clutching his face.
It’s no surprise at how proudly the Turks sing their national anthem. As a child, growing up in İstanbul, I sang that national anthem every single morning before school, along with every other student at every other school. Not only that, but a framed version of the national anthem typically sits proudly above the blackboard in the classrooms of Turkish schools, accompanied by the star and crescent flag. Now, when I see the Turkish flag, I associate it with not only the religious and historical significance but the underdog spirit which was on show in 2002 (and again in 2008).
The South Korean fans are buoyant in the stands, doubtlessly hoping to end the tournament on a high, after failing to get past an imposing Oliver Kahn and to find an answer to youngster Michael Ballack’s goal.
Peep. Saad Mane of Kuwait, not to be confused with a 10-year-old Sadio Mané from Senegal who will be hoping South Korea avenge İlhan Mansız’s golden goal against his country from just two games prior, gets things underway with the shrill peep of his whistle for the third place play-off.
Following the whistle, the Adidas Fevernova momentarily sits stationary on the centre-circle in the middle of the 66,000 seater purpose-built stadium. Number 21. Park Ji Sung, who has had a memorable tournament thus far having scored a memorable winner against Portugal in the group stages and finding the back of the net in the 5-3 penalty shootout win against Spain, whilst also dazzling with his quick feet and mazy runs, passes the ball to his teammate and recently clubless Ahn Jung-Hwan following his golden goal against Italy, who then passes back into the midfield.
Something went wrong, the referee orders a retake. The ball is rolled back to the centre and Ahn claps to lift the crowd who are growing in volume. Ahn is siding from foot to foot. A thumbs up from Mane. Peep, the whistle blows again and the game is underway – second time lucky.
Park. Ahn. This time the ball is passed all the way back to the South Korean right-back. İlhan Mansız, future ice-skater, and Hakan Şükür, the Bull of the Bosphorous, who by his own standards has been poor in the tournament thus far, having still not managed to find the net, apply early pressure. Rüştü looks on and settles himself 70 metres away at the other end of the pitch. His goalkeeping performances (and eccentricity) this tournament have only been second to that of the impregnable Kahn. Rüştü was the one player from the tournament who really captured my interest in football. I wanted his name on the back of my shirt and I couldn’t have it any sooner. Unfortunately, they were all out of goalkeeper shirts, and having been persuaded against defensive stalwart ümit özat, I got ümit Davala on the back of my new favourite shirt.
South Korea, who are playing three at the back, pass the ball from the right side of the bank of three sideways to Hong Myung-Bo in the centre of defence, playing his final international game. He has been (up to this point) dependable and will take his place deservedly in the tournament’s team of the year.
A poor first touch and Mansız and Şükür are onto the hapless defender in a flash as the ball bobbles away from his control. Mansız knocks the ball forwards into the path of Şükür, bearing down on goal at the edge of the box.
One touch to control by Şükür and the Turkish number nine has the approaching keeper to beat as the Korean right-back closes in to make up for his teammate’s fumble.
The second touch is a well-placed lunging finish which is hit low and to the keepers bottom right. The back of the net ripples and the previously buoyant crowd are silenced.
Over 5,000 miles away, Taksim Square erupts. 10.89 seconds since kick off, only a second longer than it would have taken Bolt to run down the 100m nine-lane track at the edge of the pitch and the Turks have taken the lead in this 3rd place play-off.
Turkey go on to win 3-2, a deserved victory to show for their gutsy performances in a championships where they only lost, albeit twice, to the might of Brazil. The team would return to a proud nation, having surpassed all expectations and inspired a new generation of football fans.