Hwang Heechan’s 90-minute winner brought South Korea to the round of 16 of the World Cup with a 2-1 win over Portugal.
Hwang scored his goal after captain Son Heungmin sprinted across the pitch to reach the goal at Education City Stadium in Qatar.
Portugal opened the goal after five minutes thanks to Ricardo Horta.
Group H was so fiercely contested that South Korea didn’t know its fate until eight minutes after the final whistle: Uruguay’s 2-0 win over Ghana wasn’t enough to overtake Son’s men on goal difference.
The South Korean team huddled into the center circle and huddled around a telephone showing the last, hectic moments of their rivals’ game before they burst into joyous celebrations as they only made it through the group stage of the World Cup for the third time.
Portugal had already qualified for the knock-out phase before that last group game and made six changes to the team that beat Uruguay 2-0. Among other things, Dalot and Horta were purchased. The Koreans had to win to have a chance of getting through.
Before a ball was even kicked, Education City had a roar every time the face of Portuguese captain Cristiano Ronaldo appeared on the big screen, even during the national anthems. There were also some ridicule and chants from “Messi, Messi.”
South Korea coach Paulo Bento, a former Portuguese international player, had to watch from the stands after he was sent off after the final whistle of the Koreans’ 3-2 loss to Ghana.
He saw his men fall back after just five minutes as defender Pepe played the ball right on Diogo Dalot with a full back from Manchester United.
Dalot easily dodged a weak Korean challenge and pulled the ball back from the byline so winger Horta shot unmarked into the back of the net in front of 44,000 spectators and scored a goal on his major tournament debut.
After the early opener, Kim Younggwon gave Koreans hope in the 27th minute when a corner hit Ronaldo in the back and fell friendly in love with the defender sweeping the ball home for equalization.
But Portugal still looked dangerous every time they advanced in the first half against a Korean defense that missed Napoli’s Kim Minjae. The second half was more of the same — Portugal had more possession and stroked the ball around the area, but South Korea and an increasingly influential son threatened during the break.
South Korean skipper Son, the Tottenham Hotspurs striker, did not yet have to start playing this World Cup after surgery due to a fracture in his left eye at the beginning of November.
30-year-old wore a black mask to protect the wound and showed insights into his best performance as South Korea pursued the win they so desperately needed.
South Korea’s victory in the last breath catapulted them from fourth to second in Group H. They will face the winner of Group G, probably Brazil — but nothing can be guaranteed at this World Cup.