South Korea 2 Togo 1: Ahn seizes the moment to sink Togo

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Four years ago, the adulation throughout South Korea that greeted Ahn Jung-Hwan's golden goal against Italy was not reflected in his adopted land. Luciano Gaucci, owner of Perugia, for whom the striker then played, would not countenance continuing to "pay a salary to someone who has ruined Italian soccer" and sacked him.

Last night, Ahn would have been anticipating a more generous response preferably from a would-be employer. He is seeking a move following the relegation of his German club Duisburg, and the manner in which he despatched the winner will do those ambitions no harm.

The 30-year-old was not even in the starting line-up yesterday. Yet, once again, he confirmed himself the player for the great occasion. Twenty-four hours after Hiddink had introduced Tim Cahill to turn Australia's fortunes, another Dutchman, Advocaat, introduced Ahn, as he sought to inject more adventure into his team.

Togo had been riven with behind-the-scenes rancour. Indeed, until an hour before the game, it was uncertain whether the coach Otto Pfister would be confirmed on the team-sheet after walking out after a row over players' bonuses.

Pfister appeared on the touchline, although Assogbavi Komlan, secretary-general of the Togolese Football Association, said that a decision would be made on the coach's future tomorrow.

There had been fears that Togo could be another Zaire, the only African team to play in the previous World Cup on German soil, in 1974, who were humiliated. In those circumstances, compounded by the dismissal by the English referee Graham Poll of Togo's captain Jean-Paul Abalo after 53 minutes, the Sparrowhawks put up admirable resistance before being overcome by second-half goals from Lee Chun-Soo and Ahn.

In excessively humid conditions, created by the closure of the stadium roof to enhance TV pictures, Togo led after 31 minutes when Mohamed Kader left the defender Kim Young-Chul leaden-footed before lashing the ball past the goalkeeper Lee Woon-Jae.

Immediately after Abalo's sending-off, South Korea took advantage with Lee Chun-Soo equalising with a free-kick from the edge of the area. The pressure intensified and Advocaat's men confirmed their superiority in the 72nd minute when Ahn lofted a shot over goalkeeper Kossi Agassa.

Poll had an excellent game. Even the dismissal of Abalo, for scything down Park Ji-Sung, went virtually uncontested.