South Korean fans yesterday rejoiced and called for compulsory military service exemptions after their team went out of the FIFA World Cup in a blaze of glory, eliminating defending champions Germany with a shock 2-0 victory.
In one of the great World Cup upsets, Kim Young-gwon and Son Heung-min scored in injury-time to condemn soccer superpower Germany to their first opening-round exit in 80 years.
South Korea were pelted with toffees, a South Korean insult, when they returned winless from Brazil in 2014 and although they again leave early, after defeats to Mexico and Sweden, they finished above Germany on goal difference in Group F.
“We didn’t make it to the round of 16 ... but we sent the world No. 1 packing,” a headline in Seoul’s Dong-A daily said.
“We are so proud of you,” the newspaper said on its front page, adding that the game “shook South Korea upside down.”
The Taeguk Warriors, who reached the semi-finals in 2002, brought the defending champions “down with them,” Yonhap news agency said, adding that Germany “unceremoniously bowed out of the tournament.”
South Korean social media was flooded with tens of thousands of messages from fans expressing joy and astonishment over a victory that had seemed utterly implausible before the match.
“This is far more shocking than our advance to the semi-final at the 2002 World Cup,” one person said.
“Who cares that we won’t make it to the round of 16? We defeated Germany, the world No. 1,” another said. “It was an honorable exit.”
South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon joined them, saying on Twitter: “Reality beat our imagination today” and praising the national team.
South Korea’s players swept the most-searched terms on major portals and dozens of online petitions were launched on the presidential Web site, urging South Korean President Moon Jae-in to exempt star players, including Tottenham Hotspur forward Son and goalkeeper Cho Hyun-woo, from their mandatory two-year military service.
“They gave us so much hope,” one petitioner said. “Their talent should not be wasted in the military.”
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