Son Heung-min says he was crying ‘tears of happiness’ after South Korea’s last minute winner sent them through to the World Cup round of 16.
South Korea went into their final group game with a low chance of progressing to the knockout stage.
Not only did they need to beat the much-fancied Portugal, they were also relying on the result of Uruguay vs Ghana going their way.
But in the opening minutes it all seemed to be going wrong, with Portugal taking an early lead while Ghana were awarded a penalty, which if scored may well have ended their dreams then and there.
But Andre Ayew missed from the spot allowing Uruguay to race into a 2-0 lead, and after Kim Young-Gwon equalised for South Korea, Son’s side knew that just one more goal would be enough to progress.
And one more goal was just what they got, with the Tottenham forward himself brilliantly setting up Hwang Hee-Chan for a 90+1 minute strike after a brilliant counter-attack.
With Uruguay failing to extend their lead, South Korea qualified by virtue of goals scored, the first time they have got out of the group stage since 2010.
As the full-time whistle went in their game, the players faced a nervy wait, watching the Uruguay game on their phones before celebrating wildly once the result had come through, with captain Son pictured in floods of tears.
‘I believe these tears are tears of happiness,’ the 30-year-old said in the mixed zone afterwards.
‘We waited really long for this moment and we as players believed altogether we could do this.
‘There were moments when I wasn’t able to do my best and I am thankful for my teammates that they were able to cover me in the moments I wasn’t able to fulfil my duties and I’m very proud of them.
‘At first I thought it was going to be a hard game and we expected it to be a hard game.
‘It was really hard but our players did not give up and we worked hard. We did well and I’m proud of our players, they did well.’
South Korea will now face the winners of Group G, very likely to be Brazil, in the round of 16 on Monday.
‘Going into the round of 16 was our goal and now we have higher goals and we will do our best to achieve those goals.
‘No-one knows the world of football, especially now, and since we have a chance to beat Brazil we will do our best and prepare our best game.’
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