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By Yoo Jee-ho
AL RAYYAN, Qatar, Dec. 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea are going to the knockout stage of the FIFA World Cup for the third time in history, after stunning Portugal 2-1 on Friday with a late goal by second-half substitute Hwang Hee-chan.
Hwang's go-ahead goal gave South Korea four points, good enough for second place in Group H behind Portugal, who won the group with six points.
In addition to beating Portugal, South Korea also needed Uruguay to beat Ghana in the other Group H match of Friday and go to a tiebreak. Uruguay helped South Korea by defeating Ghana 2-0, with South Korea winning the tiebreak in the second category, goals scored, at 4-2.
South Korea previously played in the knockouts in 2002 and 2010.
The win was deja vu from the 2002 World Cup, when South Korea beat Portugal 1-0 in the final group match to advance to the knockouts for the first time.
As the runners-up in Group, South Korea will face the winners of Group G in the round of 16 on Monday at Stadium 974 in Doha. Group G teams will wrap up their play later Friday, with world No. 1 Brazil in first place with six points playing their final match against Cameroon. Switzerland, the only team with a chance to catch Brazil, sit at three points heading into their finale against Serbia.
South Korea became the third member of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to reach the knockouts in Qatar, joining Australia and Japan. The AFC has never before had more than two teams in the round of 16.
Portugal opened the scoring just five minutes into Friday's match, as Ricardo Horta converted a deft feed from Diogo Dalot for his first World Cup goal.
South Korea had a goal wiped out on an offside in the 17th minute, right after Portugal goalkeeper Diogo Costa denied Cho Gue-sung his third header goal of the tournament from close range.
South Korea drew level in the 27th minute on a fortuitous bounce. Lee Kang-in's corner went off the back of unsuspecting Cristiano Ronaldo and landed at the feet of Kim Young-gwon, who was in the right spot and the right time for the equalizer.
South Korean goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu, who did not record a save while conceding three goals in the first two matches, turned aside a left-footed shot from Dalot in the 34th minute to keep the match tied.
Kim made a stop on Vitinha in the 42nd minute, with Ronaldo missing the target with a diving header after the rebound came right back at him in the goalmouth.
South Korea tried to push back in the second half, though Hwang In-beom's left-footed attempt in the 67th minute went right at Costa, and Lee Kang-in sent a free kick high and wide seven minutes later.
With Uruguay leading Ghana 2-0 in the other match, South Korea desperately needed a goal, or would have finished last in the group. And Portugal, who had already clinched a knockout spot with two straight wins, seemed content to settle for a draw.
And it was some lackadaisical defense that gave South Korea enough opening for the go-ahead goal.
After a Portugal corner during stoppage time, a clearing attempt sent the ball into wide-open midfield. Son Heung-min pounced on it and was allowed to sprint freely into the attacking zone, with Portuguese defenders backpedaling.
Once Son reached the top of the box, three defenders surrounded the South Korean captain. Hwang Hee-chan, who had come on in the 66th minute, got himself free behind the defenders to receive Son's pass.
Hwang, who had missed the first two matches here with a hamstring injury, made no mistake beating Costa for the improbable goal.
For South Korea, head coach Paulo Bento was not allowed to be on the sidelines. He was suspended after receiving a red card for having an argument with referee Anthony Taylor after the 3-2 loss to Ghana on Monday.
Bento's top assistant, Sergio Costa, was in charge.
"We deserved to win this match," Costa said in a televised interview. "Every player and every member of the coaching staff deserve to enjoy this victory."
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