South Korea seal spot in World Cup knockout stages after last-gasp win over Portugal

Hwang Hee-chan's injury-time goal secures 2-1 victory on Friday and knocks Uruguay out of competition

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Needing victory to stand any chance of advancing, South Korea snatched it at the death.

Son Heung-min found Hwang Hee-chan and he did the rest, Tottenham Hotspur to Wolverhampton Wanderers, a goal made in the English Premier League, and South Korea were through in Qatar.

They’d done it in injury-time, defeating already-there Portugal 2-1 and consigning Uruguay to an early plane home.

Still, though, they had to wait. Amid the jubilation in the Education City Stadium stands, South Korea’s entire squad stood in the centre circle, craving confirmation that Uruguay had not extended their lead against Ghana somewhere across Doha.

When the news came, that that match finished 2-0 and thus South Korea were into the last 16 on goal difference, the place erupted again and Son and cohorts sprinted off to revel in it with their fans. This World Cup was provided another epic twist.

Paulo Bento, who had watched from the stands as it all unfolded, a result of his red card in the aftermath of Thursday’s see-saw loss to Ghana, could be forgiven for his hearty reaction to the result. There were no split loyalties here for the former Portugal full-back. His side had somehow forged on.

They had to come from behind to do it. Losing early to Ricardo Horta’s lovely strike on seven minutes, they equalised on the half hour through Kim Young-gwon. If the goal had been fortuitous – the ball bounced off Cristiano Ronaldo and fell to his obliging counterpart – then the winner was what South Korea deserved.

Son, sensing their finals slipping away, surged forward in injury-time, rolled in Hwang and the substitute, barely a look-in with Bento all tournament, did the rest.

By that time, Ronaldo had already departed, withdrawn around the hour mark, presumably with the last 16 in mind. As Group H winners, Portugal play the runners-up in Group G – pick one of Switzerland, Cameroon or Serbia – on Tuesday.

Ronaldo would hope to be in better form by then. The country's captain and all-time leading goalscorer – no one in international football has ever notched more – had a frustrating evening: one effort was saved by South Korea goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu, another diving header from a rebound was put wide.

And, then, a fresh-air kick – a collector’s item – from a few yards out. Thankfully, Ronaldo’s blushes would be spared, on all three. Each was followed by the offside flag.

However, the night belonged to the game's other No 7. Involved in the build-up, Son had helped create Kim Young-gwon’s opportune poke home, then when all felt lost, he set up Hwang.

The Tottenham forward was the last man off the pitch at the end, spending longer than the rest celebrating with the vocal South Korean support behind the goal that had just witnessed something they'll most likely never forget.

Their heroes had pulled off the remarkable, knocking out Uruguay to steamroll into the knockouts. Brazil, most probably wait there, on Monday.

But courtesy of a frantic finale on Friday, South Korea did not seem to care.

Updated: December 02, 2022, 5:55 PM