World Cup: S. Korean fans brave freezing weather in Seoul to cheer team against Brazil

A crowd of about 50 gathered in sports bar The Workshop in Seoul to watch the live telecast of the match between South Korea and Brazil on Dec 6. ST PHOTO: CHANG MAY CHOON

SEOUL - One goal, Korea, just one! 

The chant, almost a plea, reverberated in a sports bar in central Seoul, where about 20 people had gathered to watch the live telecast of the second half of the South Korea-Brazil match in the wee hours of Tuesday – a snowy morning in the South Korean capital.

The score then was 4-0, with five-time World Cup winner Brazil cruising.

The full-house crowd at The Workshop had slowly dwindled until less than half remained, glued to one of the three TV screens. Most left at half-time when it became obvious a comeback from the Taegeuk Warriors was impossible.

The disappointment was palpable. South Koreans already knew it would be tough going against the world’s top-ranked side, but many kept their hopes up after seeing how the national team pulled off a dramatic last-minute 2-1 win against Portugal to reach the knockout rounds.

“We were hoping for another miracle,” said bartender Jeong Ji-won, 20, one of those who stayed behind at the sports bar.

In the 76th minute, screams erupted and some even jumped out of their seats to cheer as midfielder Paik Seung-ho scored a consolation goal. The game ended with a 4-1 score.

Remote video URL

Cheers were also thunderous at Gwanghwamun Plaza – the only outdoor venue in Seoul that showed the match live from 4am local time. 

An estimated 33,000 people, including many from the team’s official fan club Red Devils, braved sub-zero temperatures and snowfall to watch the match on a giant TV screen in front of the Gyeongbokgung palace. 

Many were clad in red, with blinking red horns on their heads and mini flags in their hands as they cheered.

One attendee told cable TV channel MBN that she would have to go to work after the game ended, but “our team fought so well to enter the round of 16 that I had to come show my support for them”.

Another one told JoongAng Ilbo newspaper he was “inspired by the players’ enthusiasm and sportsmanship” and decided to cheer them on. 

A fan watches the Qatar 2022 World Cup football match between Brazil and South Korea on a big screen in Seoul, on Dec 6. PHOTO: AFP

Pundits predicted a mere 7 per cent chance of the Taeguk Warriors progressing to the quarter-finals. 

The team had already defied all odds to get this far, despite key members like forward Son Heung-min – wearing a Batman-like mask to protect his face after undergoing surgery for a fractured eye socket – struggling with injuries. 

The match against Brazil, however, was deemed a foregone conclusion. The Selecao won the World Cup a record five times, most recently in 2002, and when the two teams faced off in a friendly match in June, the South Americans won 5-1.

“The clash between Korea and Brazil was always going to be a David versus Goliath fight, with the pure star power in the Brazilian line-up essentially guaranteeing them a win before they even walked onto the pitch,” the JoongAng Ilbo wrote. 

Fans of South Korea cheering their team against Brazil as it snows in Seoul on Tuesday. PHOTO: AFP

Still, fans praised the South Koreans for putting up a strong fight. 

Defender Kim Min-jae missed the Portugal match due to a calf injury, but he was back on Tuesday and “did a very good job”, according to deejay Jeong Jong-hyeon, 25, who watched the game at the sports bar.

“I was hoping that we would lose by two goals or less, but it was not to be,” he told The Straits Times. “My heart is aching.”

Added Mr Jeong the bartender: “We were hopeful in the beginning, but by the time Brazil scored its third goal, we knew we were going to lose.”

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.