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South Korea beats the odds to advance to knockout stage

South Korea pulled off a 2-1 upset against powerhouse Portugal on Saturday, Korean time and, despite Uruguay’s 2-0 defeat over Ghana, achieved an improbable feat of making the knockout stage.

It is the Taeguk Warriors’ first trip to the knockout stage since 2010. This marks the third time in the nation’s history that South Korea has made it to the final 16.

Portugal, despite the loss to the underdog, advanced to the next round. Two other teams in the Group H, Uruguay and Ghana were both eliminated. Uruguay, despite tying with Korea with four points, came in third place due to goal differential.

The South Korean fans, who braved the cold to gather at a public screening of the game at Gwanghwamun Plaza in central Seoul, feverishly rooted for the team, as manager Paulo Bento’s squad kept knocking on the Portuguese defense at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar.

South Korea's Son Heung-min celebrates with Hwang Hee-chan after his team beat Portugal in the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group H football match at the Education City Stadium in Al-Rayyan, Qatar on Saturday, securing South Korea's berth in the top 16.(Yonhap)
South Korea's Son Heung-min celebrates with Hwang Hee-chan after his team beat Portugal in the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group H football match at the Education City Stadium in Al-Rayyan, Qatar on Saturday, securing South Korea's berth in the top 16.(Yonhap)
South Korea's Son Heung-min celebrates with Hwang Hee-chan after Hwang scored his team's second goal during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group H football match between South Korea and Portugal at the Education City Stadium in Al-Rayyan, Qatar on Saturday. (Yonhap)
South Korea's Son Heung-min celebrates with Hwang Hee-chan after Hwang scored his team's second goal during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group H football match between South Korea and Portugal at the Education City Stadium in Al-Rayyan, Qatar on Saturday. (Yonhap)
South Korea's Hwang Hee-chan celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group H football match between South Korea and Portugal at the Education City Stadium in Al-Rayyan, Qatar on Saturday. (Yonhap)
South Korea's Hwang Hee-chan celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group H football match between South Korea and Portugal at the Education City Stadium in Al-Rayyan, Qatar on Saturday. (Yonhap)

The team desperately needed a win, coming into the game with a record of 1 draw and 1 loss. Portugal, however, scored first with a goal from Ricardo Horta just five minutes into the match,

Kim Young-gwon of South Korea scored an equalizer at the 27 minute-mark, and South Korea finally took the lead with a goal from Hwang Hee-chan, who scored 91 minutes into the match.

The injury bug plagued both Son Heung-min and Kim Min-jae -- each key players on offense and defense -- but Son braved the injury to lead their team to the knockout stage. Kim’s injury, which was more recent, prohibited him from playing the match against Portugal. Kwon Kyung-won filled in the void left by Kim’s absence.

South Korea will now face the Brazil, the winner of the Group G, and Portugal will play the runner-up Switzerland.



By Yoon Min-sik (minsikyoon@heraldcorp.com)
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