A sensational injury-time goal from Hwang Hee-chan gave South Korea an unlikely come-from-behind win against Portugal and ensured that they took the place of Uruguay in the knockout stages of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
The South American team looked to be cruising into the last 16 with a comprehensive 2-0 win against Ghana in what was a rematch of the two teams’ controversial meeting at the 2010 World Cup.
A pair of first-half goals from Giorgian de Arrascaeta put Uruguay in the driver’s seat at the Al Janoub Stadium against Ghana in a game which was overshadowed somewhat by the narrative of Luis Suarez’ dramatic handball (and resulted missed penalty) 12 years ago which halted Ghana’s journey in South Africa.
This time around, it was the Ghanaians who fluffed their lines from the penalty spot when Jordan Ayew’s tame spot-kick was scooped up by Uruguay goalkeeper Sergio Rochet.
2 — Since detailed collection began in 1966, Ghana are the only side to miss two penalties against a single opponent at the World Cup, excluding shoot-outs (in 2010 and 2022 vs Uruguay). Flashbacks. pic.twitter.com/bDdeq4TpDG
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 2, 2022
It proved to be their best chance of the game. Two goals in six minutes from de Arrascaeta appeared to have all but confirmed Uruguay’s place in the next round — especially with the score going their way in the other Group H fixture.
But the tide would soon turn. Kim Young-Gwon’s equalizer against Portugal for South Korea gave them a glimmer of hope, but it appeared as though their chance to mount a dramatic comeback had come and gone as the game ticked into injury time.
That was, before an errant corner from Portugal broke into the stride of a counter-attacking Son Heung-min, who expertly slid the ball into the path of Hwang Hee-Chan who poked the ball past Diogo Costa in the Portuguese goal in the 92nd minute.
The late goal meant that South Korea had jumped above Uruguay in the standings, and with Suarez’s face a portrait of sheer anxiety on the sidelines his team couldn’t score the single goal which would have ensured their qualification — even after several close chances and, of course, a late penalty appeal.
When the smoke cleared it was Portugal who topped the group, with South Korea finishing runners-up ahead of Uruguay — with goals scored being the only statistic which divided them.
Uruguay now join the likes of Belgium and Germany in calling up their travel agent to book a trip back home, and in Seoul you can be sure that the party is only just beginning.
South Korea’s prize for moving to last 16 will almost certainly be against Brazil if they top Group G as expected, with Portugal expected to play the winner of Friday evening’s clash between Serbia and Switzerland.
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