South Korea's newspapers on Wednesday took the co-hosts' semi-final defeat to Germany as pride,saying the defeat ended a dream but had brought the people all the more confident.
German playmaker Michael Ballack scored the only goal in the 75th minute at Seoul's World Cup stadium on Tuesday, booking his side's place in Sunday's final in Yokohama in co-host Japan.
"In the end, the South Korean Express simply ran out of steam,"the Korea Times newspaper said in a front-page story under the headline "Germany end Koreans' dream".
"The toll of three weeks of heroics told as Hiddink's Heroes were outfought by a powerful and organized German side," it said, referring to Dutch-born coach Guus Hiddink.
The defeat disappointed South Korea's 48 million people, particularly the partisan "Red Devil" fans, but the newspapers look other way.
"We are proud of Korea," said a headline in the Donga Ilbo daily.
"Well fought," said the Korea Economic Daily.
Millions of red-clad South Korean fans who watched the match ongiant open screens returned home sad Tuesday evening but not completely devastated. Many sang and chanted until well after midnight and cars honked their horns.
"The numbers on the scoreboard are just numbers. Warriors and also Red Devils, we all did our best," said the Korea Economic Daily.
"Win or lose, we are confident of ourselves," read another headline in the Donga Ilbo, saying "South Korean citizens give a big hand to the players."
"We will love you forever, despite defeat," said the daily Maeil Business Newspaper.
"South Koreans...have never been united before," said Donga Ilbo. "We have experienced what it is to become one through the World Cup."
Germany, hosts of the next World Cup in 2006, will play in Sunday's final against the winners of Wednesday's semi-final between Brazil and Turkey in Saitama, Japan.
South Korea will face in the third-place playoff on Saturday inTaegu, South Korea, the losers of the Brazil-Turkey match.
Local media expressed the view that soccer, which has been raised to a new level in South Korea, will continue to grow. "The dream will come true after four years," said Sports Chosun, playing on the fans' banner slogan asking Hiddink to make their dream come true.