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Ex-World Cup hero Yoo Sang-chul dies at 49

All News 23:04 June 07, 2021

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, June 7 (Yonhap) -- Yoo Sang-chul, a key member of the semifinalist South Korean national team at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, passed away Monday after losing his battle with cancer. He was 49.

Incheon United of the K League 1, the last club Yoo coached, said Yoo died around 7 p.m. Monday at Asan Medical Center in Seoul.

Yoo was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer in October 2019. Yoo stayed on Incheon's bench the rest of that season and helped the club avoid relegation to the second division. He resigned in January 2020 and was then named the club's honorary head coach.

This file photo from Nov. 24, 2019, shows Yoo Sang-chul, then head coach of Incheon United, following a K League 1 match against Sangju Sangmu at Incheon Football Stadium in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul. (Yonhap)

Yoo appeared to be in relatively good health early last year, making some public appearances with his 2002 World Cup teammates and attending Incheon United matches.

Yoo even approached Incheon United about returning to the bench during last season, after the club got off to a dismal start that led Yoo's successor, Lim Wan-sup, to resign in June. The club decided not to bring Yoo back, citing concerns for his health.

And Yoo's condition took a turn for the worse in recent months before the former midfielder succumbed to cancer.

Yoo enjoyed a 12-year club career in South Korea and Japan. After retiring in 2006, Yoo coached three K League clubs and a university team.

In this file photo from June 4, 2002, Yoo Sang-chul of South Korea celebrates his goal against Poland in the teams' Group D match at the 2002 FIFA World Cup at Busan Asiad Main Stadium in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)

Yoo is one of 13 South Korean players in the FIFA Century Club, reserved for those with at least 100 appearances for the national teams. Yoo played 124 matches and scored 18 goals.

Perhaps none was bigger than the one he scored against Poland in South Korea's opening Group D match at the 2002 World Cup. It came almost exactly 19 years ago -- on June 4, 2002.

Forward Hwang Sun-hong opened the scoring in the 26th minute, and Yoo's strike in the 53rd minute provided the insurance for a 2-0 victory, the country's very first World Cup victory.

Yoo played in every South Korean match the rest of the tournament, all the way to the third-place match against Turkey. Yoo was later named to the 2002 World Cup All-Star Team.

Yoo was one of South Korea's most versatile players. Though listed as a midfielder, Yoo ably handled every position except goalkeeper. He won a scoring title for Ulsan Hyundai FC in 1998 as a forward, with 14 goals in 20 matches.

Yoo is one of only two players in K League history to be named the season-ending Best XI team as a forward, a midfielder and a defender.

In this file photo from June 22, 2002, Yoo Sang-chul of South Korea celebrates his team's victory over Spain in the quarterfinals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup at Gwangju World Cup Stadium in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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