South Korea stunned Portugal 2-1 in a group H match of the World Cup to qualify for the round of 16 on Friday. It was yet another upset in a tournament that continues to throw in surprises.
Kim Young-gwon and Hwang Hee-chan scored for South Korea in the 27th and 91st minutes, respectively, before Ricardo Horta had given Portugal the lead in the 6th minute. South Korea thus managed to go through even though Uruguay succeeded in beating Ghana in the other match of the group.
On that note, we take a look at two things that stood out in the match:
Portugal defenders kept playing long balls, but South Korea managed to stay afloat in the first half
Portugal started the match without a few regulars like Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, William Carvalho and Ruben Dias. They began with a 4-3-3 formation as Cristiano Ronaldo started as the centre-forward.
The Portuguese knew that the Koreans would attack a lot down the flanks through their full-backs and hence, their centre-backs started playing long balls from inside their own half to exploit the space left behind by the Korean full-backs.
One such long ball from Pepe was brilliantly brought under control by Diogo Dalot with a fabulous first touch and then the latter played a cross from the right to Horta, who made no mistake in tapping in.
The Koreans did not opt to play a high defensive line, with the danger of Ronaldo lurking near their penalty box and struggled to attack much through the flanks. As a result, there was not pressure on the Portuguese defense as the Koreans relied a lot on the crosses played into the box from the flanks.
Dalot, however, curbed his attacking instincts after the goal and stayed inside his own half to deal with the influential Son Heung-min down the left flank. Joao Cancelo, meanwhile, attacked a lot through the left and Pepe kept playing long, diagonal passes to him.
Still, the Koreans somehow managed to score against the run of play. They earned a corner and the delivery bounced off Ronaldo’s back to reach Kim, who shot home to put them level.
Portugal dominated the second half, but South Korea found the match-winner
Portugal kept dominating ball-possession in the second half, as their players moved the ball around with their neat passing. The Koreans kept sitting deep and somehow managed to avert the danger with some desperate defending.
Vitinha caught the eye for Portugal with his astute forwards passes from the middle third, but Ronaldo remained a peripheral figure. Joao Mario combined well with Cancelo on a number of occasions through the left flank, but could not breach the Korean defense.
Midway through the second half, Fernando Santos introduced Bernardo Silva, Carvalho and Andre Silva and took off Ronaldo, Vitinha and Horta. However, they did not go all-out in attack and preferred to control the tempo of the game with their accurate passing.
Just as it seemed that South Korea would bow out of the tournament, they scored through a quick counter-attack. Portugal earned a corner during the injury time, but the delivery was headed out to Son by a Korean player.
Son received the ball near the half-line and ran at the Portuguese goal with it. He showed exceptional composure and control despite being surrounded by Portuguese defenders and managed to play a through pass to an onrushing Hwang, who timed his run to perfection and then shot first time past Diogo Costa to secure the qualification for South Korea.