SEOUL, 19 JUNE: South Korean media blamed Iran on Wednesday for angry scenes at a tense World Cup qualifier which ended with fans pelting debris on to the pitch and the visiting coach under fire for a rude gesture.
Local newspapers said Iran’s players had goaded the crowd with wild celebrations as their 1-0 win in Ulsan on Tuesday saw them qualify for the 2014 World Cup after an acrimonious build-up to the match.
Hundreds of fans hurled plastic water bottles and drinks cans as delighted Iranian players grabbed their national flag and ran around the pitch to celebrate with their fans.
Iran’s Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz was also seen pumping his fist aggressively and shouting to his rival Choi Kang-Hee in an incident which Korean officials said had attracted the attention of world body FIFA. The shambolic finale tainted South Korea’s achievement in also sealing their spot at the World Cup, which was confirmed by goal difference when Uzbekistan failed to beat Qatar by seven goals in Tashkent.
While hundred of thousands of Iranians partied in the streets of Tehran, many South Korean fans said they felt ashamed of the crowd’s behaviour. However, some newspapers pointed the finger of blame at Iran. "When their victory was sealed, all Iranians at the bench ran towards the South Korean bench, with one pumping his fist into air and making obscene gestures," said the Sports Chosun. "They stuck their tongues out to the audience and make fun of them… Those who are only good at playing games but have no respect for sportsmanship do not deserve to go to the World Cup," it said.
The unsavoury end to the game, settled by Reza Ghoochannejhad’s breakaway goal in the second half, was not unexpected after intense verbal sparring over the past week.
Choi promised to "make life painful" for Iran, claiming poor treatment during South Korea’s trip to Tehran last year, while Son Heung-Min said he would leave their captain Javad Nekounam crying "tears of blood". Queiroz called the comments "shameful" and this week, photos were posted on Twitter of the ex-Manchester United assistant coach wearing a picture of Choi taped to his T-shirt. History between the two teams gave some motivation to Iran, who missed the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after finishing behind both South and North Korea in qualifying.
On a previous visit to neighbouring North Korea in 2005, Iran were showered with bottles and chairs and blockaded inside the stadium by thousands of angry fans after their 2-0 win in Pyongyang. On Wednesday, FIFA did not immediately reply to questions about whether it would investigate Queiroz for his post-match actions directed at Choi.
The South Korean boss was in charge for the last time, with the Korean Football Association meeting on Wednesday to discuss his replacement for the 2014 tournament in Brazil.