Education City Stadium forms the backdrop for the final 2022 World Cup Group H showdown between South Korea and Portugal on Friday at 3.00 pm.
With the teams experiencing wildly contrasting fortunes across the opening two rounds, whatever the Koreans do in Al Rayyan won’t undo the European’s stellar job.
Pressured to pick up three points and by some goal margin, the Teageuk Warriors will be out to get back on track following a 3-2 defeat to Ghana last time out.
An action-packed loss to the African side, coupled with a dismal scoreless draw against Uruguay in their opening Group H game, puts Paulo Bento’s team in a precarious spot at the start of day three.
In stark contrast to South Korea, Portugal eased past La Celeste 2-0 on Monday as Manchester United playmaker Bruno Fernandes scored a second-half double to put his side through with a game to spare.
The 37-year-old clubless superstar slotted home a penalty to become the first-ever player to score at five different World Cups.
South Korea’s all-time record against European opposition at the World Cup finals cannot inspire much confidence in the Asian camp as they’ve managed just five wins from their 23 such contests (D6, L12).
Adding to Bento’s substantial list of worries, his men have suffered five defeats in their last seven World Cup outings (W1, D), as many as they had in their previous 16 (W5, D6).
But on a more positive note, South Korea dispatched Portugal’s fellow European rivals Germany in the final group stage round in Russia four years ago, suggesting an upset could be in store.
Although they’ve already qualified for the World Cup knockout stage for the second time running, Portugal could make history by winning all three group matches for the third time, last doing so in 2006.
Scoring first would likely take this tie beyond doubt, considering the Selecao have never lost a World Cup game after breaking the deadlock (W15, D3).
History points to a vigorous performance from Portugal in this conclusive group fixture, as they have gone unbeaten in their last four such contests (W2, D2).
South Korea vs Portugal Head-to-Head
South Korea and Portugal met only once before, though it was actually at the World Cup in 2002 when the Koreans were co-hosting the tournament.
Park Ji-sung scored the only goal for the Teageuk Warriors, with that 1-0 victory eliminating the Selecao from the tournament, suggesting we could have a vengeance note in Al Rayyan.
South Korea vs Portugal Potential Line-ups
South Korea (4-2-3-1): Kim Seung-gyu; Kim Moon-hwan, Kim Min-jae, Kim Young-gwon, Kim Jin-su; Hwang In-beom, Jung Woo-young; Lee Kang-in, Na Sang-ho, Heung-min Son; Cho Gue-sung.
Portugal (4-2-3-1): Jose Sa; Diogo Dalot, Antonio Silva, Ruben Dias, Raphael Guerreiro; Joao Palhinha, William Carvalho; Bernardo Silva, Joao Felix, Rafael Leao; Cristiano Ronaldo.
South Korea vs Portugal Prediction
With the heavy lifting done, Portugal can afford to ease up a bit and rest several first-team stars, safe in the knowledge that the back-ups waiting in the wings should still be good enough to get the job done here.
By contrast, South Korea must not only win, but they have to score as many goals as possible to throw a lifeline to their faint dream of making it out of the group stages for the first time since 2010.
So even though Heung-min Son could put a second-string Portugal side to a stern test, we expect the Selecao to round off their excellent group stage campaign on a high.
South Korea 1-2 Portugal
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