NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia -- It felt like Sweden's home.
Yellow was the dominant color at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, on Monday as Swedish fans packed the competition venue for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Group F match between South Korea and Sweden. South Koreans in red colors, however, didn't back down.
Football fans flocked to the stadium even five hours before kickoff. With their families and friends and wearing national team shirts, fans raised their voices from the get-go, waving their national flags and chanting.
"Mexico beat Germany, so if we work hard, I think we can also win," said Hong Sung-min, 23, a South Korean fan who started his Russia trip from Vladivostok. "I know people don't really care about the national team like in the past, but we're here to support South Korea."
Inside Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, it was not difficult to tell Sweden supporters were in the majority. It appeared to be that more than half of the 45,000-seated stadium was covered in yellow, mostly in the nothern secton, with South Koreans in red jerseys clearly visible in the southern section of the arena.
The dominance of Swedish people in Nizhny Novgorod, some 425 kilometers east of Moscow, was expected from the day when South Korea and Sweden were paired together in Group F. It take about four-and-a-half hours to fly from Stockholm to Nizhny Novgorod. For South Koreans, taking a flight from Seoul to Moscow takes more than nine hours.
Nizhny Novgorod, the city known as the birthplace of writer Maxim Gorky, was packed with yellow-jersey wearing Swedes even before match day as they occupied bars and restaurants on the streets.
"I think we'll win by 3-1," said Swedish supporter Lukas Gullqvist. "Our team did well even without Zlatan (Ibrahimovic), so I think we'll do well. Good luck (to South Korea)."
South Koreans, together with some ethic Koreans in Russia, were certainly minorities at the stadium, but that didn't mean their supporting energy was unrecognized. Chanting their famous slogan "O, Pilseug Korea (Victory Korea)," and "Daehanminguk (Republic of Korea)," South Koreans were able to make some noise at the yellow-dominant stadium.
"We might be small in numbers, but I'm confident our supporters' energy is not smaller than them," said Han Ki-hyuck, 18, who travelled with his father to see the match. "I'm expecting a 3-1 win for us."
In response, Swedish fans chanted "Vi ar svenska fans allihop (We are all Swedish fans)" loudly at the stadium. Their voices were loudest when their players got fouled by South Koreans. They booed when Lee Jae-sung stamped on ace Emil Forsberg and got away without receiving a yellow card. Similar noise came out from the Swedish side in the 43th, when Ola Toivonen was brought down after Ki Sung-yeung's tackle in the box but didn't earn a penalty kick.
The Swedish crowd called for a penalty kick when they thought Viktor Claesson was fouled by Kim Min-woo in the box in the 62nd. And when the referee awarded a penalty kick following a video review and Andreas Granqvist converted a spot kick, Swedish fans made thunderous noise.
When the final whistle was blown, Swedish fan jumped and screamed for their 1-0 victory, while South Koreans were silent, with sadness on their faces.
But for some South Koreans, regardless of the match result, experiencing this World Cup atmosphere was already a big source of happiness in their lives.
"Just looking at fans from around the world cheering is a good experience for me and my son," said Han Hee-jin. "We travelled around Russia and this trip already has been meaningful." (Yonhap)