WM: After the tears, South Korea turns its attention to Portugal

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football – FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 – Group H – South Korea v Ghana – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan, Qatar – November 28, 2022 South Korea’s son Heung-min looks dejected after the match against Ghana. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

DOHA — South Korea let its emotions wash over it as it lost a five-goal thriller to Ghana this week, but can expect no sympathy from Portugal on Friday, who are determined to claim first place in their World Cup group.

South Korea must beat the 2016 European champions – as they did at home in 2002 – and hope the result of the other Group H final between Ghana and Uruguay goes their way.

Striker Son Heung-min broke down in tears after Monday’s 3-2 defeat by Ghana and coach Paulo Bento was shown a red card for arguing with the referee after blowing the final whistle when his team fell short standing in front of a corner.

Bento will not be on the bench against Portugal.

Assistant coach Sergio Costa said South Korea will recover from his disappointment.

“We definitely deserved a win,” said Costa. “Count on us for the next game.”

South Korea have just one point after drawing their opening game with Uruguay and need to beat Portugal to progress.

At the World Cup 20 years ago, South Korea defeated a 10-man Portugal – whose team included Bento – in the final group match. The result meant Portugal didn’t qualify for the next round, while the Koreans made a run that took them to the semifinals.

Portugal opened their season in Qatar with a 3-2 win over Ghana before celebrating a more controlled 2-0 win over Uruguay on Monday.

But they are unsure about becoming group winners, a position that would likely see them avoiding Brazil in the round of 16.

“First place is not guaranteed,” coach Fernando Santos said on Monday. “We will aim for the top spot, not just because of Brazil.”

Santos will likely be forced to make further changes to his starting XI after left-back Nuno Mendes suffered an injury in the first half against Uruguay and was replaced by Raphael Guerreiro.

Central defender Danilo Pereira is out with broken ribs so 39-year-old defender Pepe is likely to keep his place and take on the task of covering for South Korean striker Cho Gue-sung, who scored twice in three minutes against Ghana.

Midfielder Otavio also missed the game against Uruguay through injury.

Captain Cristiano Ronaldo has a chance to equal Portugal’s World Cup goal record held by Eusebio, who scored nine goals in England 1966, the only tournament he took part in.

Ronaldo has scored eight goals in his five World Cups and his ninth came in Monday’s win against Uruguay, just for the goal awarded to team-mate Bruno Fernandes.

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