What turned out to be joy for South Korea, ended up being heartbreak for Uruguay in an outrageous finish to Group H on Friday. There is no surprise that this World Cup has brought several upsets and crazy finishes. South Korea joins the club as the fifth upset this tournament in dramatic style. Uruguay seemed to be cruising into the Round of 16, but South Korean’s Hwang Hee-Chan broke the hearts of million Uruguayan fans in a moment he will never forget.
Uruguay came into the World Cup as a strong underdog team that can potentially create upsets to the big-name teams. Edison Cavani and Luis Suarez will be playing in their last World Cup, with their careers soon ending. Real Madrid’s Federico Valverde is still looking to break out on the national team, with Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez also hungry for success with the national team.
South Korea, on the other hand, came into the tournament ranked 28th. Their most famous player is Spurs’ star Son Heung-Min. There were doubts if he would even play in the World Cup after suffering facial fractures early in the season. However, he recovered in time and has been playing with a face shield to ensure his fitness for the tournament. There was not much anticipation over this South Korean team, with even experts thinking Ghana would end up placing higher than them in the group stage.
All the anticipation around the fifth-oldest team in the World Cup Uruguay did not play up to their expectations. Favorites to come out of the group, they struggled against a very surprisingly strong South Korean side. The possession was shared equally, however both teams had difficulty getting shots on goal with just one all-match. The game ended 1-1, which was not a good sign on Uruguay’s part.
Their struggles continue after taking a 2-0 loss to Portugal. Despite coming back from a 2-0 deficit, Ghana came back and beat South Korea 3-2, opening the doors for anyone to come out of the group stage heading into the final day of matches. Uruguay dug themselves a huge hole by not being to score a single goal and only gaining one point. A victory against Ghana and a loss or draw from South Korea would send them to the knockout rounds.
This mission looked to be easy after two goals from Giogian de Arrascaeta put Uruguay 2-0 up early. Portugal and South Korea maintained a 1-1 draw for most of the game. Early substitutes proved costly for Uruguay, with Suarez, Nunez and Giorgian de Arrascaeta all coming out of the game.
South Korea subbed in Wolverhampton’s Hwang Hee-Chan in the 66th minute, which proved to be a predominant substitution move. He scored an unthinkable goal during injury time, sending them to the knockout round for the moment. When word spread that South Korea took the lead, Suarez and the faces of the Uruguay fans completely changed. After the final whistle, Suarez broke down in tears while several of his teammates scurried to argue with the referees.
This is South Korea’s first knockout round appearance since 2010 and Uruguay’s first group-stage elimination since 2002. After the Uruguay match ended, the South Korean players held up their flag that read “Impossible is Nothing” a slogan used for the several impossible feats seen at this World Cup.
This also means the end of the road for both Cavani and Suarez at the World Cup, leaving Qatar in tears and sadness about not taking home the trophy. South Korea will now face Brazil on Monday in a battle with the number-one-ranked team in the World.