Asia's World Cup golden goals

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AFC - It was the shot that reverberated around the football world, the goal that placed Asia on the World Cup map.

As South Korea, Japan, China and Saudi Arabia prepare to represent the region in the 2002 tournament, Pak Do-ik's famous strike which put North Korea into the quarter-finals of the 1966 World Cup and sent Italy home to a rotten tomato reception at Rome airport remains the high point of Asian teams endeavours in the finals.

"When we beat Italy, we knew we had achieved what had been asked of us. We had won for the fatherland. After the match we were all crying," recalled Pak in a recent interview.

Such was the impact of Pak's goal that North Korea had a following of some 3,000 fans from the northern English town of Middlesborough - where they had played their group matches - for the quarter-final with Eusebio's Portugal in Liverpool. A stunned television audience of millions worldwide looked on as the Koreans took a 3-0 lead before reality bit hard and Portugal knocked in five goals.

North Korea's performance in reaching the last eight remains as the best display by an Asian team at the World Cup finals.

Another glory goal 28 years later in the United States is high up there with Pak's strike in Asia's Hall of Fame. Saeed Owairan's solo effort that gave Saudi Arabia victory over Belgium and a place in the second round is rated as one of the all-time great World Cup goals.

It is a candidate for FIFA's search for Goal of the Century and was dubbed a 'miracle goal' by several of the judges. The strike is on a par with Maradona's dribble and goal against England in 1986, Michael Owen's run and shot against Argentina four years ago in France, Archie Gemmill of Scotland leaving the Dutch defence floundering during Argentina 1978 and some of Pele's wonder goals.

Like North Korea in 1966, Saudi Arabia went down in the next round losing 3-1 to Sweden. But the goals of Pak and Owairan elevated Asian football in the eyes of the world.

South Korea were the first Asian team to compete in the World Cup at the 1954 finals in Switzerland. It was a far from pleasant baptism with Hungary knocking nine goals past them and Turkey scoring seven.

The Koreans have competed in four more World Cups, the best appearance record of any Asian team, but have yet to chalk up their first victory. They drew 1-1 with Belgium in their final group match at France 98, drew 2-2 with Spain and 0-0 with Bolivia in the United States in 1994, failed to pick up a point against Spain, Belgium and Uruguay at Italia 90 and drew 1-1 with Bulgaria in Mexico in 1986.

Also in that campaign the Koreans hit two goals against the fancied Italians before going down 3-2 and lost 3-1 to eventual winners Argentina.

Saudi Arabia, in their second appearance at a World Cup finals, drew 2-2 with South Africa at France 98 while Iran downed the United States 2-1 in what was dubbed as the 'Mother of all football matches.'

Japan on their debut outing in the World Cup lost all three games to Argentina, Croatia and Jamaica in 1998.

The United Arab Emirates made their only World Cup appearance so far at the 1990 finals in Italy and conceded 11 goals in defeats to Germany, Yugoslavia and Colombia.

Iraq joined Korea Republic at the 1986 finals and suffered three narrow defeats. They lost 1-0 to hosts Mexico and were beaten 2-1 by Belgium and 1-0 by Paraguay.

Kuwait were Asia's representatives in Spain in 1982 and they managed a good 1-1 draw with Czechoslovakia before losing 4-1 to France and 1-0 to England.

Iran had a memorable 1-1 draw with Scotland at the 1978 Argentina finals but a 4-1 reverse to Peru and a 3-0 loss to Holland saw them end bottom of the group.

Now with the 2002 World Cup being staged in Asia for the first time, co-hosts Korea Republic and Japan and qualifiers China and Saudi Arabia have a great opportunity to add a few glorious chapters to the region's World Cup story.

A goal by Fan Zhiyi for China against Brazil; a glory strike by Hidetoshi Nakata for Japan; the evergreen Sami Al Jaber netting for the Saudis; or Korea notching their first ever World Cup win on home soil would be greeted with delight throughout the region.

The scene is set for a glorious month-long festival of football and Asian teams are primed to take on the world.

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