|A large crowd cheers for Korea during its first World Cup match against Russia in Gwanghwamun Square, central Seoul, on Wednesday morning. The game finished in a 1-1 draw. ( Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)|
Hundreds of thousands of South Koreans took to the streets across the country early Wednesday to cheer for the national football team against Russia in their crucial World Cup match.
The Group H clash between South Korea and Russia began at 7 a.m. on Wednesday (Seoul Time) at Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba in the central-west region of host Brazil.
Gwanghwamun Square in downtown Seoul turned into a sea of red with fans sporting Red Devil shirts and hair bands, and holding plastic wands packing the plaza. About 12,000 fans gathered there, with police estimating 7,000 attended.
Despite rain showers, the official cheering squad of the national team, the Red Devils, launched a street cheering performance at the square from midnight, boosting the festive mood.
Yeongdongdaero, or the Yeongdong Boulevard, one of the main streets in the country’s southern district of Gangnam, was a venue for some 5,000 fans, where giant screens are set up.
Company workers wearing neck-ties and suits, and students joined in the festive mood.
“I left my bag at my company and came out to watch the game because our company delayed the start of the day’s work by one hour,” Kim Min-su, a 42-year-old company worker in Seoul, said.
“I came here together with six friends at midnight although I have lots of homework to do for the final exams,” Jeong Ye-eun, a college student, said. “It was a bit cold at dawn, but I’ll take out all the stress through cheering.”
K-pop phenomenon Psy also joined the fans in front of Coex convention center and performed his hits, including “Gangnam Style.”
“South Korea will defeat Russia 2-1, and I believe we will make it to the round of 16,” said Park Won-yong, a university school student in Seoul.
“I see fewer people here in Gwanghwamun than in the 2010 World Cup, but I can still feel passion here.”
The scenic Haeundae Beach in the southeastern port city of Busan also turned red with about 1,000 citizens and members from the regional branch of the Red Devils cheering squad packing the beach to the watch the game live on a large billboard display.
In Gwangju, a southwestern city, about 500 fans assembled at a soccer stadium in red T-shirts to cheer for the national team.
The southeastern city of Daegu was no exception in the nationwide festive mood. Despite the pre-dawn hours, more than 500 fans gathered in front of a giant outdoor TV screen set up at a public park in the city center to cheer for the national team.
The fans across the country enthusiastically shouted “Dae-han-min-guk!” the country’s official name in Korean, and “Victory, Korea!” whenever their team snatched the ball from Russia.
They erupted in jubilation when South Korea’s Lee Keun-ho snatched the game’s first goal in the 68th minute. But they were visibly disappointed when Russia caught up with Aleksandr Kerzhakov’s goal only six minutes later. Even after the match ended in a 1-1 draw, the fans remained long after at the cheering venues out of frustration. (Yonhap)