By David Stringer
Anyone who watched the US v. Ghana game in the 2014 World Cup will remember Clint Dempsey scoring the opening goal of the game within 31 seconds of kick-off. This was one of the fastest goals of all time in a men’s World Cup game. However I doubt many people will be able to remember, and even less be able to claim that they watched it (either at the game or on TV), the fastest goal in World Cup history. This is both not surprising and understandable for it came in one of the most irrelevant and ignored matches in the World Cup line-up, the 3rd place playoff.
It was the 2002 World Cup. The first World Cup to be held in Asia and the first and only world cup to be held across two countries, Japan and South Korea. While the final pitted two powerhouses of world soccer against each other, who between them now have 9 world cup titles (as of 2014), the teams they knocked out weren’t. South Korea and Turkey had surprised the soccer world by reaching the semi-finals, similarly to Croatia’s surprise semi-final appearance 4 years earlier. As losers of their semi-final games they played in the 3rd place playoff game to determine the third and fourth ranked teams of the tournament. Due to the fact that the game has no relevance on the rest of the tournament and that the final, in this case a game between Brazil and Germany, is the day after there is little appeal to this game.
As is the case with any game that doesn’t mean much, the level of soccer played is better than the significant games. This is normally the case in the defensive age of soccer that is occurring at the moment. This is highlighted by the fact that there hasn’t been a goal in regular time in a World Cup final since the 2006 final. Why there is better play when nothing on the line is up for debate but it does make the sport more interesting than the highly defensive games seen nowadays. This was the case with the South Korea v. Turkey game, a game I was for some inexplicable reason watching and still remember to this day. Not the finite details, those came from watching the YouTube clip of it, but the fact that within 11 seconds of South Korea kicking the game off Turkey had scored.
South Korea kicked the game off and immediately passed the ball backwards towards their defensive backs. Turkey’s forwards pressed a bit but not aggressively, waiting like a lion to pounce on a moment of weakness from the South Korean backs. That moment came 6 seconds into the game when the right back passed across the goal to Hong Myung-bo who muffed the reception. The Turkish striker Ilhan Mansiz pounced and pressured Myung-bo, quickly winning the ball for Turkey’s first touch of the game 8 seconds in. As soon as he had won the ball Mansiz passed to Hakan Sukur who shot a devastating low strike from the top of the penalty box, passed the South Korean goalkeeper, and into the net 11 seconds into the game. This broke a 40 year old World Cup record and still stands today as the fasted goal in World Cup history. Turkey would win and claim 3rd in the 2002 World Cup 3-2 in one of the best games of the 2002 cup. This goes to show that some of the best soccer is played when there is nothing of great importance on the line.
“Fastest goal ever in world cup” YouTube, n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2016 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SK1aDApXGOQ>