The World Cup can make teammates root against one another, as was likely the case Friday when one Tottenham player advanced, and another went home.
International matches can make close teammates and friends opponents when they walk between the lines. On Friday, Spurs Heung-min Son and Rodrigo Bentancur were not on the same pitch. Still, their outcomes were inextricably linked, leading to hope and heartbreak for the other as South Korea advanced and Uruguay went home.
For Tottenham players, it was either one, the other, or none
Heading into the simultaneous matches to end Group H, Bentancur and Son only knew one thing for certain, at most only one of them was going to advance. Portugal already had the group won with two wins, but whether Ghana, South Korea, or Uruguay were to advance from there was very much a question. A question remained until the two games’ sweet and sour end.
Things looked bad for Son early, as South Korea fell behind in the opening minutes to a heavily rotated Portugal, while Uruguay and Ghana stayed level. Then things started to sway over about 10 minutes of real-time.
First, Ghana earned and then missed a penalty kick, keeping the match level. Then moments later, it was Uruguay breaking through and going up 1-0. At that point, Bentancur and his South American side were slated to go through in second place. Then within minutes of the Uruguay breakthrough, South Korea had their breakthrough, tying the score at 1-1 with Portugal.
Uruguay was still in second on four points; South Korea sat fourth with just two, and Ghana was in between with three. Within moments of South Korea leveling the score, however, Uruguay scored a second goal, seemingly establishing breathing room over Ghana and South Korea. This is how the group stayed until injury led to hope and heartbreak.
Late Son assist breaks Bentancur’s heart
Although South Korea had been pushing and pushing against Portugal in the second half, it looked like the goal they needed was never going to come. Then, a minute into injury time, Sonny picked up the ball on the edge of the box in a decent shooting position. Son had taken five shots in the match but had three blocked and maybe sensed the outcome. Thus, instead of shooting as multiple defenders converged, Sonny played a short through-ball to Hwang Hee-Chan, who slotted home for the winner.
South Korea’s goal had set them level on points and goal difference with Uruguay. Based on the goals scored tiebreaker, South Korea was now in second, with Uruguay demoted to third place in the group.
As South Korea hung on and celebrated, a different scene was playing out between Ghana and Uruguay. Bentancur had picked up a knock in the first half and came off shortly after the second goal and could only watch as his teammates scrambled to try and find one more goal against Ghana.
Despite a couple of shots on target, it was not to be, and the game finished 2-0 in favor of Uruguay. Despite the win, the South Americans were distraught over their tournament ending, joining others in a disappointing end to a big dream.
It was a happy ending for Sonny and South Korea but at one of his best mates’ expense, which made it very bittersweet for a neutral Spurs fan. But such is the passion of the World Cup.