Despite the rain and the aging faces on the pitch, football fans were treated to a rousing 90-minute nostalgia match on Thursday evening at Seoul World Cup Stadium as the heroes of 2002 took on the latest crop of local stars for this year's K-League All-Star Game.
Goals came thick and fast in the frenetic match, which saw Lee Dong-gook score a hat-trick to be named MVP as he led Team 2012 to a 6-3 rout of Team 2002.
The game, which fell on the 10-year anniversary of Korea's historic race to the semifinals of the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup, pitted many of the stars of the 2002 campaign against this year's top talent in the K-League. Much-loved Dutch coach Guus Hiddink returned to lead the old team in front of a packed stadium of 37,155 people.
In the end, the result was largely academic as most fans came to enjoy a collective walk down memory lane and reconnect with some of the magic of the long-past World Cup, which saw Korean cities light up in seas of red 10 years ago as fans took to the streets to cheer on the national team during its matches.
On Thursday, Team 2012 began aggressively. Eninho of Jeonbuk Hyundai scored the first goal in just 14 minutes, while his teammate Lee followed with a brace in the 17th and 19th. Lee's goals against his former national teammates were all the more significant as he suffered a blow during the 2002 World Cup by failing to make the final roster. He told local media recently that he sat up through the night drinking soju when the team played its crucial World Cup fixtures at the time as he couldn't bear to watch.
Under Hiddink's stewardship, Team 2002 sought to turn the tide halfway through the first half of the exhibition game by making five substitutions, prompting a temporary change in dynamic. Almost immediately, Choi Yong-soo scored the first goal in the 25th to make it 3-1.
Five minutes later, Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-sung narrowed the gap even more by turning a pass from Seol Ki-hyeon into the goal with his right foot. He then ran over to Hiddink -- just like he did after scoring against Portugal 10 years ago. Hiddink jumped off the bench, waved his towel, and welcomed his beloved pupil into his arms. The scene was like a flashback from a decade ago.
Team 2012 added more goals from Eninho, Ha Dae-sung and Lee Dong-gook in the second half. Hwang Sun-hong scored a consolation goal for Team 2002 just before the end of the match.