SEOUL – Thousands of South Korean football fans who had gathered hopefully on the streets across the country fell silent after their team's uninspiring 1-0 defeat against Sweden in the 2018 World Cup.
Sweden, competing at the tournament for the first time since 2006, won a 65th-minute penalty after the South's Kim Min-woo brought down Viktor Claesson in the box.
Thousands of “Red Devils” South Korean fans, many clad in the team's signature scarlet and chanting “Go Korea!” gathered at major thoroughfares and football stadiums across the country to watch the opening game.
They were initially buoyed by South Korea's bright start to the game, forcing the first corner in the fourth minute.
But the mood soured as the Taeguk Warriors were gradually forced back by an attritional Swedish side and finished the game without a single goal.
South Korea made history with their astonishing run to the 2002 World Cup semi-finals but the current crop of players have struggled to come close to that performance.
Some fans were seen wearing uniforms from 2002 as they watched the game on giant displays set up in downtown Seoul.
“I was hoping that we may be able to see a miracle again at this year's World Cup... but maybe my expectation was too high,” Seoul college student Kim Sung-Ho said after the game.
“It looks a bit bad because we thought this could be the only match we had a chance to win,” said another student Choi Mee-hee.
Before Monday's game, South Korea's coach Shin Tae-Yong called it a “must win” game but the defeat leaves his side contemplating only an early exit.
The team will next face Mexico, who beat defending champions Germany 1-0 on Sunday.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)