By AP and published by US News & World Report
Al Rayyan, Qatar – South Korea’s players formed a circle in the centre of the field and trained their eyes on several cell phones showing a nearby match that would decide their future at the World Cup.
The South Koreans had just about done their job, beating Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portugal teammates 2-1 on a stoppage-time goal.
Now came an agonising wait. To advance to the round of 16, they just needed Uruguay to not score a goal against Ghana in the other group match that still had at least six minutes to play.
Thousands of red-and-white-clad South Korea fans had whipped out their phones, too. Some prayed. Others were crying, just like captain Son Heung-min in the players’ huddle.
They could soon really party.
South Korea advanced on the tiebreaker of goals scored, pushing Uruguay into third place Friday in one of the wildest finishes to a group in the tournament’s 92-year history.
“It really feels like a miracle,” South Korea striker Cho Gue-sung said.
South Korea and Uruguay finished with four points and both had a goal difference of zero, but the Asian team scored four goals compared to Uruguay’s two.
“We never gave up,” Son said through tears. “Our players were trying to run an extra step more, sacrificing themselves, and that allowed us to achieve a good result.“
When the Uruguay-Ghana game finished 2-0 and South Korea was sure of its second-place finish, the players on the field erupted in joy, hugging each other and squirting water in the air.
Then they got in a line and sprinted toward their fans behind one of the goals at Education City Stadium before performing a dive in front of them.
South Korea was tied at 1-1 and heading out of the tournament when a Portugal corner got cleared and Son led a length-of-the-field breakaway in the first minute of added time. He got crowded out by Portugal’s retreating defenders but had the presence of mind to slip a pass through an opponent’s legs and into the path of Hwang Hee-chan, who placed a low finish past goalkeeper Diogo Costa.
Hwang, who came on as a substitute for his first match at this year’s World Cup, removed his jersey and flexed his muscles. Some of his teammates fell to the ground. But there were still five minutes more of stoppage time to play.
When the final whistle blew, Son — who was sobbing with joy — and other teammates dropped dramatically to the turf, banging their fists. South Korea coach Paulo Bento, who is Portuguese, waited patiently in the tunnel while the Uruguay-Ghana match played to a finish. He couldn’t be with his players because he was serving a suspension for a red card in South Korea’s last game.
Hwang didn’t play in South Korea’s first two games because of a left hamstring injury but entered as a 66th-minute substitute against Portugal. He said the coaching staff told him: “You’re going to create something.”
Portugal had already advanced after two games and won the group, assuring Ronaldo of at least one more match in Qatar as he seeks his first World Cup title in likely his final attempt.
Ricardo Horta, starting up front alongside Ronaldo, had given Portugal the lead in the fifth minute when he converted a first-time shot off a cross from right back Diogo Dalot.
South Korea equalised with a helping hand from Ronaldo after an outswinging corner struck his back as he turned away from the ball. Kim Young-gwon swept the loose ball into the net in the 27th minute to start a comeback that had the most dramatic of endings.
“What we achieved here is special,” Son said, “and I am so proud of our players.
“Making the last 16 was our goal. We did our best every game, but you just can’t predict what happens in football.”
South Korea’s players are getting used to providing late drama. Four of the team’s last seven goals at the World Cup have been scored in the 90th minute or later.
Ronaldo started for the third straight group game but was substituted after an ineffective 65 minutes. If he starts as expected in the last 16, he’ll have played four games in 13 days at the World Cup — having only been used for Manchester United before the tournament.
South Korea has advanced from the group stage for the third time. The team reached the semifinals on home soil in 2002 and lost in the last 16 in 2010.
Brazil wins group despite 1-0 loss to Cameroon at World Cup
The stoppage-time goal didn’t help Cameroon reach the round of 16 despite the team’s 1-0 win over Brazil’s reserves on Friday. But it handed the five-time champions their first group-stage loss in 24 years, and gave Africa its first win against the Seleçao at the tournament.
Aboubakar was sent off after a second booking for taking off his shirt during his celebration, leading him to miss the final minutes of his team’s big victory.
“I didn’t even realise that this was such a historic victory,” Cameroon coach Rigobert Song said. “We are one of the African countries that played the most World Cups, and now we’ve beaten Brazil.”
Brazil had won its previous seven matches against African opponents at the World Cup.
“We can be proud of what we’ve done tonight,” Cameroon goalkeeper Devis Epassy said. “We worked very hard. Unfortunately, though, we didn’t qualify, and that’s why we are not too happy.”
Brazil, which had already reached the knockout stage after victories over Serbia and Switzerland, still finished first in Group H. It ended with six points, the same as Switzerland, but the South Americans had a better goal difference. Cameroon ended with four points and Serbia had one.
“The loss doesn’t eliminate us, but we have to learn from it,” midfielder Fabinho said. “The objective was to finish first in the group and we did.”
Brazil will face South Korea in the round of 16, while the Swiss will play against Portugal.
It was the 11th straight time Brazil won its World Cup group. It had won 17 straight group games since a 2-1 loss to Norway in 1998 in France. It had lost only one of its last 29 group matches at the tournament.
Cameroon hadn’t won any of its last nine World Cup matches, with eight losses and a draw — against Ireland in its opening game at the 2002 tournament.
Coach Tite rested nearly all of his regular starters and made 10 changes from the win against Switzerland on Monday.
Brazil was still without the injured Neymar, but the star forward was at Lusail Stadium to watch the match with his teammates.
Both teams created some good scoring chances, but couldn’t capitalise on them until Aboubakar’s winner off a right-flank cross by Jerome Ngom Mbekeli, who had entered the match in the 86th minute.
The Cameroon captain threw his shirt to the ground near the corner flag and waited for his teammates as they rushed toward him. He then left the field after the referee showed him the red card.
Brazil finally conceded an attempt on target after not having done so in the first two matches.
Cameroon, which opened with a 1-0 loss to Switzerland, had endured a small crisis after its 3-3 draw with Serbia, with goalkeeper Andre Onana being sent home for disciplinary reasons after a dispute with coach Song.
With his start Friday, the 39-year-old Dani Alves became the oldest Brazilian to play at a World Cup, ahead of 38-year-old central defender Thiago Silva, Brazil’s captain in Qatar. Alves’ last game at a World Cup had been in the round of 16 of the 2014 tournament in Brazil. The right back was injured before the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Neymar the star
Neymar joined his teammates at the stadium for the first time since injuring his right ankle in Brazil’s opener against Switzerland.
He wasn’t limping as he got off the team’s bus and even played with the ball as his teammates warmed up. The crowd cheered loudly when the stadium’s big screen showed him singing the national anthem before the match. He later sat in the stands behind the bench, with fans trying to get close and take photos of him.
Brazilian fans showed their support for soccer great Pelé, who is hospitalised in Sao Paulo with a respiratory infection.
They displayed a banner with the image of Pelé holding a soccer ball behind one of the goals, and opened a large flag with an image of the Brazil great and the words: “Pelé. Get well soon.” One fan in the stands held up a jersey with a photo of Pelé on it.
Switzerland beats Serbia 3-2 to reach last 16 of World Cup
Remo Freuler scored the winning goal just after halftime as the Swiss secured second place in Group G. They will next face Portugal on Tuesday at Lusail Stadium.
Freuler finished off a backheel pass from Ruben Vargas after Xherdan Shaqiri clipped a ball into the penalty box.
Shaqiri put Switzerland ahead early in the first half before Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic responded for Serbia. Breel Embolo evened the score just before halftime.
Switzerland needed a win to guarantee itself a place in the knockout round after beating Cameroon and losing to Brazil in its opening two games. The team reached the round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and again four years later in Russia. They lost 1-0 in both matches, to Argentina and Sweden, respectively.
Against Portugal, the Swiss will be looking to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since hosting the competition in 1954.
Switzerland and Serbia meet in the group stage for the second straight World Cup. The Swiss also won in 2018 after a last-minute goal from Shaqiri.
This time, the Chicago Fire forward put his team ahead in the 20th minute to become the first Swiss player to score at three World Cups.
Born in Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, Shaqiri ran straight to the opposing fans to celebrate, putting his finger to his lips after being taunted by that section of the crowd.
But Serbia supporters soon had something to celebrate with Mitrovic beating Manuel Akanji to head in a 26th-minute equaliser. Vlahovic turned in the box and sent a low shot into the net to put Serbia in front in the 35th.
Embolo evened the score again when he turned in Silvan Widmer’s cross just before the break.
By the time the clock ticked to 45 minutes, Serbia coach Dragan Stojković slouched in the dugout, his face pale and glistening with sweat.
It only got worse at the beginning of the second half.
Argentine referee Fernando Rapallini officiated Friday’s match at Stadium 974. He was also the referee for Switzerland’s penalty shootout win over World Cup champion France in the round of 16 at last year’s European Championship.
Switzerland goalkeepers Yann Sommer and Philipp Koehn, as well as defender Nico Elvedi, were all unavailable because they were ill.
Mitrovic scored his 52nd international goal to extend his record as Serbia’s leading scorer.
Top: South Korea’s team players wait for the result of their group’s match between Ghana and Uruguay, after the World Cup group H soccer match between South Korea and Portugal, at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. Photo: AP Photo/Darko Bandic and published by US News & World Report
First insert: Brazil’s Bremer controls the ball during the World Cup group G soccer match between Cameroon and Brazil, at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. Photo: AP /Moises Castillo and published by Yahoo!Sports
Second insert: Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal during the World Cup group G soccer match between Serbia and Switzerland, in Doha, Qatar, Qatar, on Friday Dec. 2, 2022. Photo: AP /Ricardo Mazalan and published by US News & World Report
Front Page: South Korea’s players celebrate at the end of the World Cup group H soccer match between South Korea and Portugal, at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan , Qatar, on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. Photo: AP Photo/Hassan Ammar and published by Yahoo!Sports