South Korea v Portugal
Whilst other groups may compete for the title of “Group of Death,” one thing’s for sure: Group H of the 2022 FIFA World Cup is the Group of Revenge. After beating Uruguay 2-0 to avenge their Round of 16 elimination to La Celeste four years prior, Portugal will now be attempting to avenge their Round of 16 defeat to South Korea in 2002. After finishing third in 1966 and crashing out in the group stage in 1986, the Seleção returned to the World Cup for the third time in South Korea and began their campaign with a 3-2 defeat to the U.S., a 4-0 win against Poland, and a 1-0 defeat to South Korea that would see the visitors fall to 10 men in the 27th minute as João Pinto saw red whilst Beto picked up a second yellow in the 66th minute, with Park Ji-sung opening the scoring four minutes later and leading them to a 1-0 win that would see Portugal miss out on a knockout round spot by a point.
That Portugal side featured Porto manager Sérgio Conceição, Boavista manager Petit, and South Korea manager Paulo Bento, who spent four years as Portugal’s manager before being sacked in 2014 and took charge of the Taegeuk Warriors in 2018 and oversaw a 0-0 draw vs. Uruguay before falling to a 3-2 defeat to Ghana that would see Bento get sent off in the final minute.
Going into the last group game against Portugal, South Korea will have to win and by a better margin than Uruguay (If they do win) to qualify. I expect Bento to change up the formation back to a 4-4-2 and enable captain Son Heung-Min to join in the game. For the first time in a long time, we have seen some success from South Korea in terms of crossing in and set pieces. They had a lot of attempts from corners and both goals came in the form of headers from a cross. No doubt they will try this avenue again, however Portugal’s professionalism shouldn’t see concentration levels dropped.
I’m backing this to be a high-scoring fixture between a Portugal side that will be looking to rotate with first place all but guaranteed and a South Korea side that needs a win and some luck.
Cho Gue-Sung came out flying in this game and is understandably going to play again. Having not played in the World Cup Qualifiers for Korea at all, he started against a strong Ghana and had a massive 4 shots ON TARGET.
He was a vital player in the comeback against Ghana and will most likely be starting against Portugal. South Korea will need him in form for any chance of qualification and against a huge opponent like Portugal, he will definitely want to prove himself.
Portugal are one of three teams to qualify for the knockout round after two matches alongside France and Brazil, and they are all but guaranteed to finish first, currently three points above Ghana and three ahead in goal differential. This could see Fernando Santos make several changes to the side and bench various players who are at risk of picking up a suspension such as Rúben Dias, Bruno Fernandes, João Félix and Rúben Neves. South Korea could take advantage of this and penetrate the Seleção’s defense after picking up 22 shots and 7 shots on target in a 3-2 defeat to Ghana.
Portugal have conceded three shots on target in three of their last four matches apart from a 1-0 defeat to Spain that saw them concede 5 on target, and I’m expecting them to continue that pattern in what promises to be a do-or-die fixture for South Korea which could see them opt for a more gung-ho approach in attack.
Kim Moon-Hwan is a strong part of the South Korean defence alongside partner Kim Min-Jae. Over the last 2 games he has averaged just over 50 passes and the number is on the rise. South Korea’s memo said this game will be the word “possession”.
They will want to deny Portugal any opportunities and will want to keep it all for themselves to build up play and win. I expect him to achieve this pass rate and, if the stats are right, for him to have more than the previous game (60).
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