KOREA/JAPAN (Tuesday, June 4, 2002) - Six more teams joined the action at the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Tuesday's three matches, each involving a team from Asia. The co-hosts each posted an historic result - Japan's first-ever point in the World Cup in a 2-2 draw with Belgium and Korea's first-ever World Cup win in a 2-0 victory over Poland - while China fell 0-2 to Costa Rica in its first-ever World Cup match.
The evening's action started in Gwangju, Korea, as former U.S. head coach Bora Milutinovic led China into their World Cup debut, a Group C encounter with another of his former teams, Costa Rica. The game was scoreless into the second half, despite China's star defender Sun Jihai leaving the match due to injury in the 26th minute. The game turned just after the hour mark as Costa Rica found the net twice in a four minute span to take control of the match. Ronald Gomez passed to Paulo Wanchope just inside the penalty area with a back-heel. Wanchope's shot was blocked by a defender and was loose for Gomez to pounce on and fire high and left past Jiang Jin for the game's opening score in the 61st minute. Just minutes later, Gomez set up Mauricio Wright for a two-goal lead in the 65th minute. Gomez received a corner kick along the endline on the left side and found Wright at the near post for a downward header that Jiang Jin could not prevent from finding the back of the net. Costa Rica matches Brazil atop Group C with three points, though Costa Rica owns a one-goal edge in goal difference. China and Turkey remain at zero points.
Co-host Japan opened play in Saitama, Japan, in front of a partisan crowd of 55,000 fans. After falling behind 1-0 to Belgium on a brilliant Marc Wilmots finish in the 57th minute, Japan quickly struck back to take the lead. Takayuki Suzuki beat Belgian goalkeeper Geert de Vlieger to a long pass out of the midfield and poked it past de Vlieger for the 59th minute equalizer. Japan took the lead in the 67th minute as Junichi Inamoto made a brilliant run up the left side and beat de Vlieger with a shot into the far post. The hosts appeared on their way to three points, however Belgium pulled level against the run of play in the 75th minute as Peter van der Heyden beat the offside trap and goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki for Belgium's second goal. Both teams had their chances for the winner in the game's final 15 minutes, the best opportunity being waved off after Inamoto had put the ball in the net as the referee ruled he had committed a foul before scoring. Belgium appealled for a penalty in the closing moments of the match after Narazaki took down Wesley Sonck in the penalty area, but the official ruled the Belgian player was not denied a chance to score on the play. The teams each took a point - Japan's first in World Cup history - to take the lead in Group H, with Russia and Tunisia opening play on Wednesday.
Tuesday's final match saw the other co-host, Korea, open play against Poland in Busan, Korea. Korea took the early lead in Group D - which also includes Portugal and the United States, who open play Wednesday - with a 2-0 win over Poland. Korea earned the victory with a goal in each half, the first from Hwang Sun-Hong in the 26th minute, the second from Yoo Sang-Chul in the 53rd minute. The crowd of 55,000 Korean fans erupted in joy at the conclusion of the match as their team secured its first ever victory in the World Cup finals in its 15th match, having gone 0-10-4 in appearing in every World Cup since 1986. Korea takes the early lead in Group D, with Portugal and the United States yet to begin play. They face off Wednesday in the opening match at Suwon World Cup Stadium (live on ESPN2 and Univision at 4:55 a.m. ET).