Football: World Cup - Belgium pay dearly for lack of adventure

Belgium 1 Nilis 7 South Korea 1 Yoo Sang-chul 70 Att: 48,500
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The Independent Online
FOR ONCE, the World Cup fates came down on the side of justice. After the cruel eliminations of Morocco and Spain, the ageing, predictable Belgium went out yesterday.

The Belgians had previously reached the second round of every finals they had qualified for since 1970, but they were held by the spirited South Koreans, who equalised 20 minutes from time through Yoo Sang-chul. The Korean captain cancelled out Luc Nilis's early effort and earned the joint hosts of the next finals their first point.

It was no less than the Koreans deserved: they could have scored four, Choi Yong-soo putting two point-blank headers over the bar and firing into the side netting as the desperate Belgians pushed forward looking for a winner. As it turned out, matters were not in Belgian hands. Mexico's late equaliser against the Netherlands in St Etienne meant both those teams would go through.

Belgium, needing goals to boost their inferior goal difference in case that proved the decisive factor, rested their 37-year-old captain, Franky van der Elst. He did come on for the last half-hour, replacing another of Belgium's favourite sons, Enzo Scifo, who had taken over the skipper's armband.

Belgium swarmed forward from the kick-off and took the lead when Gordan Vidovic's goal-bound header was cleared off the line and Nilis rifled in the rebound. Instead of trying to put the game beyond doubt, they retreated into their normal attritional style for the rest of the first half and were fortunate when Choi Yong-soo was wrongly ruled offside when clear on goal.

Belgium replaced the ineffective Fiorentina attacker Luis Oliveira with Mbo Mpenza for the second half but he fared little better and Korea fully deserved their equaliser, when Yoo finished off a free-kick from the left.

Belgium's coach, George Leekens, was at a loss to explain his side's poor performances that brought three draws. "I don't know why, perhaps it was mental," he said. "In this championship, we didn't have enough ideas."

BELGIUM (4-4-2): Vandewalle (Aalst); Staelens (Club Bruges), Vidovic (Mouscron), Borkelmans (Club Bruges), Deflandre (Club Bruges); Wilmots (Schalke 04), Van Kerckhoven (Lierse), Scifo (Anderlecht), Clement (Genk); Oliveira (Fiorentina), Nilis (PSV Eindhoven). Substitutes: M Mpenza (Standard Liege) for Oliveira, h-t; Van Der Elst (Club Bruges) for Scifo, 66; L Mpenza (Standard Liege) for Clement, 75.

SOUTH KOREA (4-4-2): Kim Byung-ji (Ulsan Hyundai); Lee Min-sung (Pusan Daewoo), Lee Sang-hun (Ihlwa Chonma), Kim Tae-young (Chunnam Dragons), Hong Myung-bo (Bellmare Hiratsuka); Choi Sung-yong (Sangmoo), Yoo Sang- chul (Ulsan Hyundai), Kim Do-keun (Chunnam Dragons), Ha Seok-ju (Cerezo Osaka); Choi Yong-soo (Sangmoo), Seo Jung-won (Strasbourg). Substitutes: Lee Lim-saeng (Puchon SK) for Choi Sung-yong, h-t; Ko Jong-soo (Suwon Samsung) for Kim Doh-keun, h-t; Jang Hyung-seok (Ulsan Hyundai) for Lee Sang-hun, 66.

Referee: M Rezende de Freitas (Brazil).