Wednesday, February 1, 2023

South Korea advance to round of 16 with goal of exemption

RAYAN, Qatar ( Associated Press) – South Korean players formed a circle in the middle of the pitch and looked at several cellphones that showed the final minutes of another match that will define their fate at the World Cup.

They had already done their job as they beat Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal 2-1 thanks to Hwang Hee-chan’s goal in the first minute of stoppage time.

But he had to wait impatiently. To advance to the round of 16, they depended on Uruguay not scoring in the second game of Group H against Ghana, with six minutes still to play.

Thousands of South Korean fans were also immersed in their phones in the stands of Education City Stadium. Some prayed. Others were crying, like Captain Son Hyung-min.

He was going to drink in a while.

South Korea qualified for the second round in dramatic fashion and sent home third-place Uruguay on goal difference in the craziest group play in the tournament’s 92-year history.

South Korean attacker Cho Gye-sung said, “It’s like a miracle.”

Next opponent? Neither more nor less than Brazil next Monday.

The South Koreans looked doomed to bid goodbye to the tournament until their star Son recovered a ball from the deep and ran onto the pitch in the first minute of extra time to hand the ball to Hwang, who finished with a low touch .

When that game ended with a 2–0 victory for Uruguay, securing second place in the bracket for South Korea, the players cheered.

Uruguay won 2–0 against Ghana, a result which secured the key second place for South Korea. Portugal had qualified earlier and came first in the bracket.

South Korea closed with four points, equal with Uruguay. But the Asians scored four goals against two for Celeste.

“We never give up,” said the son with moist eyes. “We gave the maximum and nothing else, sacrificing ourselves, and this allowed us to get the result.”

With the score at 1–1 and following a Portuguese corner kick, Son took possession of the ball and galloped towards the opposite goal. Several Portuguese players followed him, but the Tottenham attacker was clever to throw a pipe to release the ball to Hwang, whose shot beat goalkeeper Diogo Costa.

Hwang, who came on as a substitute in his first match at this World Cup, took off his shirt and showed off his muscles. He still had five minutes to play.

Son – crying with joy – and the other South Koreans collapsed onto the pitch when the whistle blew. South Korea’s Portuguese coach Paulo Bento patiently watches the final minutes of the Uruguay-Ghana game from a tunnel. He could not accompany his players as he was suspended after being sent off in the previous game.

Hwang missed the first two matches in Qatar due to a muscle injury in his left leg, but came on after 69 minutes. One of his technical assistants told of his goal: “You’re going to do something great.”

Cristiano Ronaldo’s starting eleven partner Ricardo Horta first put Portugal ahead after five minutes after deflecting a cross from right-back Diogo Dalot.

South Korea finished 27th thanks to Cristiano’s connivance. A corner kick hit the back of the Portuguese captain and Kim Young-gwon made a deep finish to the loose ball.

“What we have achieved is special, I am very proud of my teammates,” Son said.

“It was our goal to reach the round of 16. We leave everything in each game. Football is an unpredictable sport.”

Nation World News Desk
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