World Cup: South Korea drama ends in heartbreak
AL RAYYAN, Qatar - South Korea’s hopes of qualifying for the last 16 of the World Cup dimmed after a 3-2 defeat by Ghana at the Education City Stadium on Monday, in a game in which they rallied from 2-0 down and draw level, only to concede again.
The 28th-ranked Koreans must now beat Group H’s top-ranked side Portugal (world No. 9) in their final match on Friday in order to progress at their expense. Portugal, who beat Ghana 3-2 in the group’s opening game, play Uruguay in the other Group H game later on Monday.
Against Ghana, South Korea had dominated the early proceedings but conceded against the run of play in the 24th minute when Mohamed Salisu lashed home a from close range after the ball fell kindly to him off a free kick.
They were punished again 10 minutes later when Mohammed Kudus glanced a header into the bottom corner to double his side’s lead.
Son Heung-min, South Korea - and Asia’s - biggest star at this World Cup, was conspicuous in his black carbon-fibre protective mask, as he continued to nurse an eye socket fracture suffered a month ago.
And while the forward looked sharp and in motivated mood, he rarely got sight of goal and was often crowded out by the Ghanaian defence, who double- or even triple-teamed him, with lightning-quick right-back Tariq Lamptey keeping particularly close watch.
But Son’s presence gave his teammates more space, and two goals in three second-half minutes that arrived from the left side of the pitch - which Son occupied - helped Korea turn the game on its head.
Cho Gue-sung was the scorer each time, first nodding in off Lee Kang-in’s cross in the 58th minute, before burying an even more powerful header from Kim Jin-su’s centre.
But the comeback was short-lived.
Just seven minutes after Cho levelled the scores, Kudus steered a low shot beyond the reach of South Korea goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu to restore his side’s lead.
Deflated a second time, Son and his teammates tried to lift themselves and threw everything at the Ghana goal for another equaliser, creating some nerve-wracking moments for the Africans in their penalty box near the end of the game. But this time, they were not able to conjure one.