Uruguay defeated Ghana 2-0, but are out of the World Cup in Qatar by a slim margin, as South Korea secured a dramatic 2-1 late win against already qualified Portugal, qualifying for the round of 16.
Ricardo Horta scored on his major tournament debut to give group winners Portugal ahead on Friday in the fifth minute, but Kim Young Gwon equalized from a corner in the 27th minute.
The equalizer would have eliminated the South Koreans, but in the opening seconds of added time, Son Heung Min led a quick counter-attack to find Hwang Hee Chan, who scored the winner and liberated his country in the knockout stage on goals scored.
After the final whistle between Portugal and South Korea, there was much drama as Uruguay were still playing Ghana and only one goal was needed to change the fortunes of Group H.
“We watched the last minutes on the pitch together and we really wanted to go through. We were very happy,” said South Korea’s Jae Sung Lee.
Ghana missed a penalty in the 21st minute, just as they did in the sides’ famous 2010 World Cup clash after Luis Suarez cleared a shot on target.
That missed penalty cost Ghana a place in the semi-finals and history repeated itself in Qatar when André Ayew’s spot kick was saved by Uruguayan goalkeeper Sergio Rochet when the match was still 0-0.
As if that weren’t enough, Giorgian de Arrascaeta scored a rebound from Suarez just five minutes later and completed his brace in the 32nd minute with a fine first half and after another assist from Suarez.
However, both were already on the bench when South Korea scored the decisive goal in the other match and could only watch as Uruguay failed to find a goal that would have sent them to the round of 16.
This is the first time in four editions that the South American nation has failed to advance to the knockout stages of the World Cup.
“We are very sad about the result. In the end it didn’t depend on us because there were other factors,” said goalscorer Arrascaeta.
Manager Diego Alonso said his team “gave everything” and suggested referee Daniel Siebert was responsible for their exit. “It’s very clear what happened, that’s all we can say now.”
Germany’s Siebert opted not to award Uruguay a penalty after Edinson Cavani fell to the floor inside the box in the first few minutes of added time.
In some crazy scenes, Uruguayan players surrounded the referee after the game, with cameras showing Suarez in tears on the bench.
Ghana, meanwhile, could have advanced even with a win and the missed penalty is likely to haunt the team for some time.
“We will learn from this. All great results also come from great defeats,” said coach Otto Addo.
Portugal qualify as group winners and are likely to avoid Brazil in the round of 16, but were not happy with a last-minute loss to the Koreans.
“It would have been better to win, we knew it would be complicated,” said Portugal defender Diogo Dalot. “We could have controlled the game better, but we can learn from that.”
Coach Fernando Santos said the defeat should serve as a “wake-up call” for his side.
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