Chinese see South Korean success with mixed emotions. '50 per cent of its success was due to buying the referees, 30 per cent due to its superhuman will power and 20 per cent to the support of its fans'. That was the analysis of the South Korean soccer team's extraordinary performance at the World Cup by one Chinese fan on Sina.com, the country's most popular Web site. South Korea, which had previously never won a game at the World Cup, became the first Asian team to reach the semi-final, where it lost by the narrowest of margins, 0-1, to Germany, one of the world's traditional powers in the sport. The surfer's analysis summed up the mixed feelings of Chinese fans toward the success of their neighbour, fans who had gone into the World Cup with such high hopes, because their own team was competing for the first time since it first tried to qualify 44 years ago. China lost all its three games without scoring a goal and was one of the first countries to be eliminated, while South Korea, with a population that is three per cent of its own, defeated such famous world-famous teams as Portugal, Italy and Spain. 'For me, the referees in the South Korean games were crooked,' said Cheng Guomin, a taxi driver and avid fan who follows the European games broadcast live on state television. 'They were 'black whistles'.' This was a term invented earlier this year by the Chinese media to describe a scandal involving teams in the second division of the country's professional league which had astonishing results at the end of the season. Clubs later confessed to paying referees and players to fix the games, causing the soccer authorities to cancel the results. 'Italy and Spain had perfectly good goals disallowed,' Mr Cheng said. 'South Korea must have paid off the referee. In the semi-final, I supported Germany. I am familiar with their players from the television broadcasts. They are a fine, strong team.' 'South Korea used to be a tributary state of China,' said Liang Meili, watching its game against Spain last Saturday on a large television in a fast food shop on the fourth floor of the Blue Island department store in Beijing. 'Its people came from China originally and they still use many of our characters in their writing. So we cannot regard them as our equal,' she said. Many Chinese have this feeling of condescension toward South Korea, despite its remarkable economic success, which prevented them supporting the team wholeheartedly as a neighbour and the best team in Asia, after their own side was eliminated. Still less could they root for Japan, another Asian country that did unexpectedly well in the competition, because of the relentless anti-Japanese education they receive at school and in the state media. But official newspapers were kinder to the South Korean team. On Wednesday (June 26), the day after its loss to Germany, the Beijing Morning Post said that, despite the rumours about the referees, the team had caused an earthquake at the tournament and, by reaching the last four, had transformed the old order in world football. 'People give many reasons for its success - the fact that it was a host nation, the red magic (its fans), energy, good luck and the referees. But, if it was not strong, it would not have gained victory whatever help it received from the referees. 'Whoever they played, they went on running and attacking until their opponents surrendered or they themselves reached exhaustion. They were a model for a team in perpetual motion,' it said in a commentary. It said that its success had raised the status and prestige of soccer in Asia to an unprecedented level and proved that South Korea was ready to play the world's best teams. 'They did not fear their opponents as our team did,' said He Jian, a school teacher. 'They stood up to them. Our players backed away and seemed to have accepted defeat before the game began. Our team did not have their spirit or energy.' He's feelings were shared by most Chinese fans who had modest hopes before the tournament and did not expect the team to do well. This - in addition to careful preparation by the authorities and the police - would explain why there was so little trouble after China's three defeats. 'We are not good at team sports,' He said. 'We are good at individual sports. Chinese are too individualist.'