South Korea's surprising run at the World Cup football finals that it is co-hosting with Japan has come to an end.
Before a boisterous sellout crowd of about 65,000 fans, wearing mostly the home team's red, South Korea and Germany battled up and down the field in a scoreless first half. Each managed only two shots on goal, but the best chance was by the Koreans.
After the break the pace picked up, but it took 30 more minutes for the Germans to finally break through. Oliver Neuville sped down the right side and sent a low crossing pass that split two Korean defenders. The ball rolled to an onrushing Michael Ballack, whose initial shot was saved by the Korean goalie, but the deflection went right back to him, and Ballack easily kicked it into the goal in the 75th minute.
It was then left to the German defenders to preserve the shutout and they did. They have allowed only one goal in their six matches.
German coach Rudi Voeller said he was proud of his team's effort. "I think we played very well early on and right from the start," he said. "And we were very compact in defense. We changed the defense around a bit and played with a line of four [in the back], and throughout the game we were able to create goal-scoring opportunities. I think we were the deserved winners of this match."
Michael Ballack also had scored the lone goal in Germany's quarterfinal win over the United States last Friday. However, he will miss Sunday's World Cup championship match [in Yokohama, Japan] because a few minutes before he scored, he received his second yellow card in the knockout phase of the tournament. He'd also gotten one against Paraguay in the second round.
Coach Voeller said Ballack's play was key. "We have to give him the highest respect," he said. "It is a great pity that he will miss the final. Not only because he scored the goal was he one of the best players, though it's more or less his duty, but even though he knew that with another yellow card he would miss the final, he still committed that tactical foul which was absolutely necessary. So he placed himself at the service not only of the team but of the whole of Germany. So I think not only myself as a coach, but the entire country will stand and applaud him."
As for the host South Koreans, their Dutch coach Guus Hiddink, said it just was not their night. "We had some threats," he said. "We didn't have big chances, but neither did the Germans have a lot of chances. But you have to be realistic and say they are a little bit more experienced and you can see that in the end, that will pay [off]."
And Germany's 1-0 win over South Korea pays off in a trip to the World Cup championship match on Sunday in Yokohama, Japan.