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World Cup A-Z: Ahn Jung-Hwan

17 May 2014

At the 2002 FIFA World Cup, joint hosts South Korea were one of the stand-out teams as they progressed to the semi-finals and eventually finished fourth, but their success in the tournament came at a cost for one of their players.

Having progressed through Group D as winners, beating Poland and Portugal and drawing with the United States, Guus Hiddink's side were pitted against Italy in the round of 16.

Christian Vieri put the Azzurri in charge but they failed to add to their tally and former Wolverhampton Wanderers, Reading and Fulham attacker Seol Ki-Hyeon equalised in the 88th minute.

Golden goals were still in fashion - before being removed after the tournament - and, having missed a penalty earlier in the match, Ahn Jung-Hwan rose highest and headed the South Koreans into the quarter-finals with 117 minutes on the clock.

Slight problem though, Ahn was employed by Italian Serie A side Perugia. He was soon dismissed.

"That gentleman will never set foot in Perugia again. I have no intention of paying a salary to someone who has ruined Italian soccer," declared an explosive and highly irritable owner of Perugia, Luciano Gaucci.

Days later, Gaucci indicated it was the South Korean's remarks about the Italian nation afterwards, not the goal, that prompted the club's decision to fire him. Remarks which were considered to be, in his words, 'offensive to a country that two years ago opened its doors to him'.

"He could have scored 10 and I wouldn't have felt offended. It was simply the comments he made," added Gaucci.

Perugia later offered to buy Ahn's contract outright but the forward refused before returning to the J. League to play for Shimizu S-Pulse.

He went on to play for his country in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, amassing 71 caps and scoring 17 goals, before retiring from football in 2012.

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