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Stars of fortune

Two stars of 2002, two contrasting beginnings to the 2006 World Cup. Ahn Jung-Hwan showed he hadn?t lost his touch and Ronaldo struggled to regain his.

india Updated: Jun 16, 2006 14:56 IST

Two stars of 2002, two contrasting beginnings to the 2006 World Cup. Ahn Jung-Hwan showed he hadn’t lost his touch and Ronaldo struggled to regain his. Substituted, the big Brazilian looked forlorn and lost on the bench. That was exactly how South Korea were feeling, till Dick Advocaat continued the trend of inspired substitutions from coaches by getting Ahn on.

Ronaldo’s only contribution — if you ignore the slew of mispasses early on — was a 56th minute drive that went wide. It’ll take some doing for him to get past Gerd Mueller’s record of 14 World Cup goals with this kind of form, but you can write off a man, who’s scripted one of football’s most miraculous turnarounds, only at your peril. At least, Ronaldo’s coach has faith in him.

“Ronaldo will start the next game. He’s lacking a little bit of sharpness, and he can only get that if he plays. He’s a key player for us and he will get better,” Carlos Alberto Parreira said after the match.

Ahn, on the other hand, helped a nervous and jittery South Korea settle down. According to Advocaat, the MSV Duisburg player gave the team direction before scoring with a dipping shot. This was South Korea’s first victory outside Asia in six World Cup finals.

Discounting Australia for the moment, it was also the first victory by an Asian team in this competition. With France and Switzerland being locked goalless, South Korea are now on top of group G.

In a roundabout way, Vikash Dhorasoo could have made it a great day for the continent whose performance in this World Cup will show whether or not 2002 was a fluke. His 89th minute effort for France from an acute angle on the left narrowly missed the far post.

At 33, this player of Indian origin whose parents migrated to France from Mauritius could have been a hero the way Lillian Thuram was in the 1998 semi-final against Croatia. Born in Harfleur, Dhorasoo now plays for Paris Saint German after having spent time with AC Milan, Olympique Lyon and Bordeaux. He was overlooked for a Les Bleus berth till Raymond Domenech gave his international career a second wind, getting him to play seven of France’s qualifiers on way to the 2006 finals.

On Tuesday, a goal from him would have silenced Domenech’s critics — and given his tetchy relations with the French press, there have been many --- who are crying themselves hoarse over the exclusion of Robert Pires, Ludovic Guily and Nicolas Anelka. And it would have got India talking about it.

More particularly Andhra Pradesh, from where his great grandparents went to Mauritius to work in sugarcane plantations. It would also have been France’s first goal in the finals since Emannuel Petit struck in the 1998 final against Brazil. Like Rohan Kanhai, Alvin Kallicharan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Dhorasoo has come a long way from the slave-like conditions of his forefathers. There is still time for him to stand up and be counted in what should be his first and last World Cup.