AI RAYYAN, Qatar ― Monday night Qatar time brings Korean soccer’s biggest game since the semi-final of the 2002 World Cup against Germany. Playing Brazil at a World Cup is always special but doing so in the knockout stages is even more magical. Win and Korea will move to the quarterfinals ― possibly to face Japan ― and the world will be in shock. It’s a long shot, but you never know.
The whole nation has been pinching itself since Friday’s spectacular 2-1 win over Portugal. An injury time goal from Hwang Hee-chan sent Education City wild and Korea through by the narrowest of margins. Now comes the five-time world champion.
The two teams met in Seoul in June with Brazil giving the host a soccer lesson and winning 5-1. The stakes are higher this time. The odds are in the South Americans’ favor. Not only do they have a star-studded roster, though their biggest name, Neymar, is battling with injury and backup striker Gabriel Jesus is also out, but the route to the second stage has been much smoother.
Brazil won the first two games against Serbia and Switzerland and so was able to rest a number of players in the 1-0 loss to Cameroon. Had the Africans scored one more, then Brazil would have slipped into second and now Switzerland would be the opposition waiting. Korea, on the other hand, had to keep going until the final second of the final game and will be nowhere near as fresh. 먹튀검증
But perhaps Son Heung-min will be a little sharper. Perhaps defender Kim Min-jae, who missed the Portugal win with a calf injury, will be able to play, and perhaps Hwang, who has been struggling with a hamstring problem all tournament and came off the bench in the second half on Friday, will be able to play a bigger part.
It would be good if there was a little more time to prepare. There is usually five days or so between teams ending the group stage and then starting the second round, but not at Qatar 2022. Korea has little time to do anything but rest. The alternative, getting on a plane and heading back to Incheon International Airport, was a good deal less attractive, however.
There is one thing in Korea’s favor as it prepares to take on Brazil: nobody expects anything. This, however, is knockout soccer and anything can happen. A red card, a penalty or moment of magic can change a game and therefore the result. Korea will have to be at its very best and Brazil off its game.
The team spirit is there however and Korea is still buzzing with excitement and delight. The bonds forged in the time between the end of the Portugal game and full-time between Ghana and Uruguay, will last forever. Korea’s players and staff stood on the field and watched on phones, willing Uruguay not to score the goal that would have sent the Asian team home.?
The match kicks off at 10 p.m. Monday at Stadium 974 in Doha, or 4 a.m. Tuesday in Korea.