DAEJEON, South Korea -- Millions of red-clad South Koreans waved national flags, shouted "Oh, Korea's sure to win!" and danced Tuesday night to celebrate the country's first trip to the World Cup quarterfinals.
In downtown Seoul, more than 1 million fans erupted with chants of "Dae Han Min Kuk!" ("Republic of Korea!") when striker Ahn Jung-hwan headed home his winning goal in overtime to beat Italy 2-1.
Thousands of firecrackers illuminated the night sky of the capital. Whistles blew and car horns honked. Endless streams of light soared over a 10-lane thoroughfare in central Seoul.
President Kim Dae-jung, who watched the game at his office with his entire Cabinet and presidential staff, said Tuesday's victory was a good omen for his country, which overcame the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis and is trying to reconcile with communist North Korea.
"Tonight, I feel that a new path of prosperity is opening for our country," Kim said. "Things seem to be working out fine for South Korea."
Groups of fans watching the game on television at restaurants and pubs poured out, waving national flags, embracing strangers and chanting "Korea! Korea!" Some lay down on the pavement and others climbed on the roofs of buses and trucks to wave national flags.
"I feel as if my heart had stopped when the goal went in," said Shin Seung-min, a 30-year-old office worker in Seoul.
"I feel like I am flying now," said Choi Kap-shik, a 49-year-old South Korean businessman who rejoiced with his wife. "I could ask for nothing more."
Police estimated up to 4.2 million people across the nation poured into the streets to celebrate the victory. South Korea's population is 47 million.
In central Seoul alone, 1 million fans watched the game on large outdoor screens, with hordes of volunteer cheerleaders using loudspeakers to lead the chants. Fans formed a human stream as they marched down the main boulevard, many locking shoulders.
In Busan, South Korea's second largest city, tens of thousands of people formed a 2-mile long human chain on the beach in celebration. Apartment blocks blinked their lights, and residents waved national flags from their balconies.
Earlier in the day, Japan, the other co-host, tumbled out of the World Cup with a 1-0 loss to Turkey.
With the blow of the final whistle, firecrackers erupted and the 38,588 crowd went wild at Daejeon Stadium.
The South Koreans initially considered a single victory at the World Cup a success. That and more was achieved when South Korea, which had never won a game in five previous trips to the World Cup, beat Portugal and Poland and tied the United States to win its group.
South Korea first went to the World Cup finals in 1954. Going into the 2002 World Cup, its record was 0-4-10.
It was not the first time Italy lost to a Korean team at the World Cup. In 1966, Italy lost 1-0 to North Korea in England.
"You remember England 1966!" blinked outdoor screens in downtown Seoul before the match.
Now they have something else to celebrate.
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