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World Cup: 20 years ago, Mexico and South Korea faced off at the World Cup. Here’s what happened

SUAREZ KIM
Mexico’s Claudio Suarez, left, battles for the ball with South Korea’s Kim Do Hon during the South Korea vs. Mexico, Group E, World Cup 98, soccer match at Gerland stadium in Lyon, Saturday, June 13 1998. Mexico defeated South Korea 3-1.
(ERIC DRAPER / AP)

On Saturday, Mexico and South Korea will face each other in their second group stage match of the World Cup. A lot is on the line for both sides.

Despite beating Germany 1-0 in the opening match last Sunday, Mexico has yet to secure its ticket for the knockout stages and must avoid complacency if it hopes to move on. Another loss for South Korea would eliminate it from the tournament.

Their only other World Cup match against each other took place at the 1998 World Cup in France. South Korea and Mexico both were drawn into Group E, and faced off in the first match of group play on June 13 at the Stade de Gerland in Lyon.

Not much was expected of Mexico during that World Cup, at least not by former Los Angeles Times sports reporter Mike Penner.

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“Is it any wonder why Mexico has gone from undefeated champion of the CONCACAF qualification region, winner of the 1998 Gold Cup, to consensus favorite to finish last in Group E in the span of barely four months,” Penner wrote at the time in his World Cup preview.

Penner’s biggest critique was that Manuel Lapuente, the manager for the Mexican national team, had left too many seasoned veterans off the roster, including Carlos Hermosillo, Luis Robert Alves (better known as “Zague”) and Benjamin Galindo, in favor of youngsters like Pavel Pardo, Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Duilio Davino.

Lapuente’s gambit paid off.

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South Korea struck first in the 27th minute thanks to a free kick goal by Ha Seok-ju. A mere three minutes later, Ha was given a red card after a hard tackle on Mexico’s Ramon Ramirez. Korea managed to maintain its lead for the remainder of the first half despite being down to 10 men.

El Tri equalized in the 50th minute on a corner kick goal by Ricardo Pelaez. By that point, the momentum had completely shifted in Mexico’s favor. . So much so, in fact, that Cuahtemoc Blanco introduced the world to the cuauhteminha — a flashy bunny hop with the ball secured in between his legs. Blanco, now considered one of Mexico’s greatest footballers, pulled the move not once but twice.

Mexico took the lead for good in the 75th minute thanks to an impressive goal by Luis “El Matador” Hernandez. Ten minutes later, Hernandez scored his second goal.

Mexico also played against Germany in the 1998 World Cup, though they faced off in the round of 16. If you know anything about El Tri, you know that this is where they flame out. Sure enough, Die Mannschaft overcame a Hernandez goal by scoring twice in the waning minutes of the match for a 2-1 victory.

fidel.martinez@latimes.com

Twitter: @fidmart85

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