Where EAST meets the Northwest
South Korea’s Son Heung-min controls the ball during a World Cup soccer match
at Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, on November 28, 2022. South Korea
has advanced to the Round of 16. South Korea was tied at 1-1 and nearly headed
out of the tournament when a Portugal corner kick was cleared and Son led a
length-of-the-field breakaway in the first minute of added time. Son got crowded
out by Portugal’s retreating defenders but had the presence of mind to slip a
pass through an opponent’s legs and into the path of Hwang Hee-chan, who placed
a low finish past goalkeeper Diogo Costa for the win. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)
Asian Reporter web extra, December 2, 2022
South Korea advances at World Cup after wild finish in group
By Steve Douglas
The Associated Press
December 2, 2022
AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — South Korea’s players formed a circle in the center
of the field and trained their eyes on several cellphones showing a nearby match
that would decide their future at the World Cup.
The South Koreans had just about done their job, beating Cristiano Ronaldo
and his Portugal teammates 2-1 on a stoppage-time goal.
Now came an agonizing wait. To advance to the Round of 16, they just needed
Uruguay to not score a goal against Ghana in the other group match that still
had at least six minutes to play.
Thousands of red-and-white-clad South Korea fans had whipped out their
phones, too. Some prayed. Others were crying, just like captain Son Heung-min in
the players’ huddle.
They could soon really party.
South Korea advanced on the tiebreaker of goals scored, pushing Uruguay into
third place Friday in one of the wildest finishes to a group in the tournament’s
"It really feels like a miracle," South Korea striker Cho Gue-sung said.
South Korea and Uruguay finished with four points and both had a goal
difference of zero, but the Asian team scored four goals compared to Uruguay’s
"We never gave up," Son said through tears. "Our players were trying to run
an extra step more, sacrificing themselves, and that allowed us to achieve a
When the Uruguay-Ghana game finished 2-0 and South Korea was sure of its
second-place finish, the players on the field erupted in joy, hugging each other
and squirting water in the air.
Then they got in a line and sprinted toward their fans behind one of the
goals at Education City Stadium before performing a dive in front of them.
South Korea was tied at 1-1 and heading out of the tournament when a Portugal
corner got cleared and Son led a length-of-the-field breakaway in the first
minute of added time. He got crowded out by Portugal’s retreating defenders but
had the presence of mind to slip a pass through an opponent’s legs and into the
path of Hwang Hee-chan, who placed a low finish past goalkeeper Diogo Costa.
Hwang, who came on as a substitute for his first match at this year’s World
Cup, removed his jersey and flexed his muscles. Some of his teammates fell to
the ground. But there were still five minutes more of stoppage time to play.
When the final whistle blew, Son — who was sobbing with joy — and other
teammates dropped dramatically to the turf, banging their fists. South Korea
coach Paulo Bento, who is Portuguese, waited patiently in the tunnel while the
Uruguay-Ghana match played to a finish. He couldn’t be with his players because
he was serving a suspension for a red card in South Korea’s last game.
Hwang didn’t play in South Korea’s first two games because of a left
hamstring injury but entered as a 66th-minute substitute against Portugal. He
said the coaching staff told him: "You’re going to create something."
Portugal had already advanced after two games and won the group, assuring
Ronaldo of at least one more match in Qatar as he seeks his first World Cup
title in likely his final attempt.
Ricardo Horta, starting up front alongside Ronaldo, had given Portugal the
lead in the fifth minute when he converted a first-time shot off a cross from
right back Diogo Dalot.
South Korea equalized with a helping hand from Ronaldo after an outswinging
corner struck his back as he turned away from the ball. Kim Young-gwon swept the
loose ball into the net in the 27th minute to start a comeback that had the most
dramatic of endings.
"What we achieved here is special," Son said, "and I am so proud of our
"Making the last 16 was our goal. We did our best every game, but you just
can’t predict what happens in football."
South Korea’s players are getting used to providing late drama. Four of the
team’s last seven goals at the World Cup have been scored in the 90th minute or
Ronaldo started for the third straight group game but was substituted after
an ineffective 65 minutes. If he starts as expected in the last 16, he’ll have
played four games in 13 days at the World Cup — having only been used for
Manchester United before the tournament.
South Korea has advanced from the group stage for the third time. The team
reached the semifinals on home soil in 2002 and lost in the last 16 in 2010.
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