World Cup: Five facts about South Korean hero Hwang Hee-chan
Hwang Hee-chan’s composed 91st-minute finish helped South Korea beat Portugal 2-1 and progress to the World Cup round of 16 from a tough Group H which also included Uruguay and Ghana. Who is this cool cucumber who has actually not scored a goal for his club this season?
1. A boyhood goal machine
Hwang was born in Chuncheon, a tourist destination featured in the popular K-drama Winter Sonata.
He started playing football in Singok Elementary School and developed a taste for goals, top-scoring in numerous youth tournaments. He even broke the record of the Kanga Cup in Australia when he scored 22 goals for the South Korea under-12s.
In 2013, he helped the Pohang Steelers under-18s win the Adidas All-In Challenge League with 12 goals in 12 games.
2. Home inspiration
While his first serious sport was taekwondo, which he practised until he was eight, he did start kicking about after watching the 2002 World Cup which was co-hosted by South Korea and Japan.
He admired the Brazilian Ronaldo, as well as former national striker Hwang Sun-hong, who scored the first goal in their 2-0 opening-game win over Poland, which was their first World Cup win, and was key in the nation’s run to the semi-finals.
3. European education
Interestingly, Hwang has never played senior football for a Korean club. Austria’s RB Salzburg pinched him from Pohang Steelers in 2014.
He had loan spells at second-tier sides FC Liefering in Austria and Hamburger SV in Germany before becoming an RB Salzburg star.
Hwang then signed for the German Bundesliga’s RB Leipzig before a loan spell to Wolves became permanent in 2022. He scored five goals in 31 games for the English Premier League club last season, but has yet to find the net in 13 games for them this term.
Overall, he has a decent scoring record in Europe, with 68 goals in 251 games for these five clubs.
4. He once sent Virgil van Dijk for a hot dog
The Liverpool defender was at his peak in 2019 when he went 55 EPL games without being dribbled past.
But in a Champions League group game, Hwang made the Dutchman look ordinary, turning him inside out to score RB Salzburg’s first goal in a 4-3 loss at Anfield.
Bet365 tweeted: “Hwang Hee-chan will be immortalised as the man who sent Virgil van Dijk for a hot dog.”
5. He is known as The Bull
After the aforementioned match, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp called Hwang a machine.
But his official nickname is The Bull. He doesn’t know where he got that from, but agreed with the description.
He said: “My way of playing is quite aggressive and fearless. Especially when I watch myself playing on television, I can understand why they call me The Bull.
“I try to break through any opponent who is defending me. I think that is what the fans expect. I want to show that for them in my performance.”