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The South Korean players who sent Germany crashing out of the World Cup

Going into the match, Kim Young-gwon was despised by his own fans, now he’s a national hero
Heading into the match against Germany, the South Korean player who scored the opening goal was despised by his own fans.
Last year, Kim Young-gwon lost favour with fans for chiding them for being “frustrating” and “too noisy”; the backlash was fierce. After South Korea’s two losses to Mexico and Sweden, fans back home unleashed a wave of vitriol on the entire team.
But as the underdog team faced off against the defending World Cup champions, a deft kick from Kim in the 94th minute, followed by a few tense minutes as the referee reviewed the replay, and all was forgiven.
“I really prayed and prayed for it to be a goal,” said the defender, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency. “If I hadn’t had that incident, I may not have scored a goal like today. Fans’ criticism made me improve and work harder.”
Kim’s goal, along with another from star forward Son Heung-min, ensured the defending champions crashed out of the World Cup, finishing at the bottom of their group. Both goals were scored in injury time after a tense 90 minutes in which Germany dominated possession and South Korean fans cheered at the slightest chance of a shot on goal.
Son debuted in the Bundesliga in 2010 aged 17 and the Tottenham Hotspur star has previously said playing against Germany was a long-held dream.
But it was a bittersweet victory for the South Koreans, who still failed to advance to the round of 16 despite their performance against Germany. Although mathematically possible heading into the match, it would have required a different result in Sweden’s 3-0 win over Mexico in the other group game.
“Overall, we can’t be satisfied because we’re not in the knockout stage,” Kim said. “We’ll return home with regret. We’ll keep knocking on the doors at the World Cup to reach the knockout stage.”
Still, South Korea’s win was splashed on the front page of almost every newspaper in the country.
Fans of Mexico, which secured a place in the next round due to South Korea’s win, mobbed random Koreans on the street and expressed their gratitude. Cheering fans in Mexico City gathered outside the South Korean embassy, with one diplomat reportedly taking a shot of tequila with supporters.
On social media, fans depicted Kim in the style of a Mexican saint, created mashups of the South Korean and Mexican flags and digitally added the Korean flag to El Zocalo, the main square in Mexico City.
One Mexican restaurant in California announced a 25% discount for customers of Korean heritage, in honour of their win.
Despite the widespread celebration among fans, Son ended the game in tears, as he did during South Korea’s defeat at the hands of Mexico.
“I’m still afraid of the World Cup,” Son said. “We have to keep developing to play better football. We have to look ahead next four years or maybe eight years.” GRD – EP

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