Playing against the host country in a hostile environment Sunday, the South Korean men's football team at the ongoing Asian Games silenced the boisterous home crowd the best possible way: with goals.
The huge crowd at Huanglong Sports Centre Stadium in Hangzhou was all fired up before the kickoff between South Korea and China in the quarterfinals. Chinese players drew loud cheers from some early birds in the stands when they took the field for the warmup. By the time the national flags came out for the prematch ceremony, the 51,971-seat stadium was almost packed.
A smattering of boos came down from some parts of the stadium during the playing of the South Korean anthem. After the kickoff, Chinese fans jeered every time a South Korean player touched the ball. And even when South Korean players went down in pain after some rough stuff from Chinese players, boos rained down -- with fans apparently thinking South Koreans were embellishing injury.
Unfazed by the noise, South Korea took a 1-0 lead on 18 minutes on Hong Hyun-seok's free kick.
As he ran toward his bench to celebrate with his teammates, Hong put his left index finger to his lips, the universal sign calling for silence.
By the time Song Min-kyu doubled South Korea's lead by the 35th minute, South Korean players didn't need to put their fingers to their lips. The decibel level dropped to the lowest level since the kickoff.
Song put his hands behind his ears, as if to say, "I can't hear you."
The crowd came back to life near the end of the first half, when Dai Weijun struck the left post with a header. And the home fans returned with more energy after halftime but left the stadium unhappy over the loss.
Leading up to this match, the concern for South Korea had mostly been about how the team's young players would fare when surrounded by some 50,000 people who wanted them to fail. It wasn't about how South Korea would handle China on the field, such is the gap in the talent level between the two sides.
And the match played out that way, with South Korea outclassing China in every aspect.
There was a testy moment around the 66th minute mark after players from both sides got tangled up in a battle for the loose ball in front of the Chinese bench. Cooler heads eventually prevailed, and South Korea also won the match.
Source: Yonhap News Agency