Last-gasp South Korea on Friday reached the knockout phase of the FIFA World Cup in dramatic fashion, while Uruguay won the other Group H game, but lamented an inferior goals-scored record as the Asian team edged them to set up a last-16 match against Brazil.
With the clock ticking down at the Education City Stadium, South Korea knew they needed one more goal against Portugal to leapfrog Uruguay and Hwang Hee-chan delivered in stoppage-time to secure a 2-1 victory.
South Korea’s players after their game stood in a huddle watching the final minutes of the Ghana-Uruguay match on a mobile phone as they waited for their place in the last 16 to be confirmed.
Uruguay, leading 2-0, needed one more goal to go through, but fell agonizingly short despite piling on the pressure, crashing out of the Qatar tournament.
South Korea and Uruguay both finished on 4 points in the group, had identical goal differences at zero, but the Asian team scored four goals in their three group games to the South American side’s two.
Portugal topped Group H despite their defeat and face Switzerland for a quarter-final place.
Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min, who produced a brilliant assist for South Korea’s winner after a quiet tournament so far, said he was crying “tears of happiness” after their victory.
“We waited really long for this moment and we as players believed altogether we could do this,” Son said. “There were moments when I wasn’t able to do my best and I am thankful for my teammates that they were able to cover me in the moments I wasn’t able to fulfil my duties. I’m very proud of them.”
The game between Uruguay and Ghana was billed as a chance for the African side to avenge their defeat by the same side at the 2010 World Cup, when Luis Suarez was the villain.
A deliberate handball on the goalline by Suarez denied Ghana an extra-time winner in their quarter-final in South Africa.
Suarez, 35, who refused to apologize for his misdeeds before the game in Qatar, had a major role in his team’s goals, both scored by Giorgian de Arrascaeta, but it was not enough.
The veteran, who was replaced by Edinson Cavani in the second half, was inconsolable after their victory failed to advance them and furious Uruguay players surrounded the officials, incensed that they had not been awarded a penalty.
“I feel sadness and disillusionment. I was lucky enough to play in four World Cups,” Suarez told Uruguayan TV station Teledoce. “Before the match I was thinking about my four-year-old son who had never seen me win a World Cup match. Today he saw me win, but with an image of sadness. For a father, for a player, that’s tough.”
Additional reporting by staff writer
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