A NIGHT after Japan upended Spain and topped their group, neighbours South Korea pulled off one other shock, beating Portugal to advance to the spherical of 16 on the expense of Uruguay — and stretching the theme of the Asian surge within the World Cup in one other night time of untamed drama.
It appeared a misplaced trigger for South Korea in opposition to Portugal, comprising not solely Cristiano Ronaldo but additionally an ensemble of Europe’s most valued gamers. The duty appeared bleaker when Portugal scored as early because the fifth minute, via Lus Ricardo Horta.
For the subsequent 20 minutes, Portugal might have scored a number of instances however for the gumption of the Koreans who defended valiantly, placing all the pieces on the road. The perseverance was rewarded when Kim Younger-Gwon equalised within the twenty seventh minute.
For the subsequent 63 minutes, they needed to rating one other aim, hold Portugal away from reclaiming the lead — and hope that group rivals Uruguay wouldn’t add to the 2 targets that they had netted inside the primary 32 minutes in opposition to Ghana within the different match. Within the stands, the Korean followers, who had turned up in droves with these ubiquitous horns fitted to their heads, could possibly be seen frantically checking the scores of the Portugal-Ghana recreation.
For some time, it appeared the night time won’t be Korea’s as a aim stored eluding them. However they didn’t surrender, just like the Japanese the opposite night time in opposition to Spain. They stored storming the Portuguese goalmouth, and 31 seconds into stoppage time, discovered a spring of hope on this desert metropolis.
The aim originated from their talisman Heung-min Son’s lung-busting run to the Portugal finish. As soon as contained in the Portugal submit, he slipped in an inch-perfect move to Hwang Hee-Chan, who was making the shadow run. The Koreans on the bottom, within the dugout and stands, and doubtless within the nation, leapt in pleasure.
However that they had six minutes of added time to wade via and pray that Ghana would stop Uruguay from nicking one other aim. For the Ghanians of their grudge match in opposition to Uruguay, the subsequent smartest thing apart from successful was denying Uruguay a knockout spot. They defended fiercely and stored Uruguay at bay, making this the third time three groups from the Asian confederation are within the spherical of 16 (Japan, Korea and Australia, who is taken into account a part of the Asian qualification system).
Their progress could possibly be ascertained as a fluke. Korea performed an organised recreation, compact in defence and exact in counterattacking. So did Japan, combative and bodily, taking part in deep and direct latching onto fast counters and optimising their possibilities with laser-guided precision.
Late Thursday, Japan mustered simply three pictures on targets in opposition to Spain, and two of them have been targets. Comparable have been the numbers in opposition to Germany earlier — they transformed two of the 4 possibilities they acquired. In opposition to Germany, they loved 26 per cent ball possession; in opposition to Spain simply 18. However nonetheless, when goal-scoring moments arrived they latched on. As their supervisor Hajime Moriyasu mentioned later: “We have now reached world requirements.”
Korea’s coach Paulo Bento, who watched Friday’s match from the stands as he was red-carded for an outburst on the referee of their earlier recreation in opposition to Ghana, might repeat the phrases of his Japanese counterpart.
Lengthy gone is the time when Asian groups have been seen condescendingly, for merely making the numbers. Japan has progressed thrice to the spherical of 16 within the 5 editions. Korea had reached the semifinals within the 2002 version, although they have been allegedly the beneficiaries of some horrendous refereeing. However no asterisk can be connected to their latest journey to the knockout, similar to for Japan.
It shouldn’t be misconstrued that Asian groups benefited from taking part in in Asia. For, a case could possibly be made then that Europe and People groups have at all times loved house benefit as simply three World Cups have been performed in Asia and Africa.
Somewhat, it’s a second to understand the comeuppance of Asian soccer.
Each Japan and Korea have sturdy leagues, and have a legion of gamers taking part in within the leagues of Europe. Japan has 451; Korea has 330 overseas. A few of them are among the many elite. Like Son, who’s one half of Tottenham Hotspur’s lethal ahead line. The match-winning Hwang is Wolverhampton Wanderers’ most trusted ahead.
Of their journey to the steep path of acclaim, they’ve shattered perceptions. Asian gamers are usually not nearly twinkling toes and silken abilities, however they’re technical and bodily gamers who can match their European and American counterparts in each side of the sport. If the world has but to note and acknowledge their vault, they only must tune into this World Cup.
Japan scalped Germany and Spain, with a mixed haul of 5 World Cups, international locations which have formed techniques and philosophies of contemporary soccer. Korea shocked Portugal, the Portugal of Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes. Now, it’s time for Asian soccer to not simply stand with their heads held excessive, however name the Europeans equals. On this World Cup, they’ve been greater than equals.