South Korea vs Portugal Prediction
2nd December 2022
18:00 Qatar Time/15:00 GMT
Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
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World Cup Head-to-Head Record
Played:1 South Korea Wins:1
South Korea vs Portugal Prediction Match Overview
South Korea vs Portugal in the third round of Group H games sees a Portugal side who have already qualified for the round of 16 come up against a South Korean team who desperately need a victory here. A draw will not be enough for the Koreans and even if they are successful, they must also hope that Ghana don’t beat Uruguay in turn. A 0-0 draw in their opening game against Uruguay and a 3-2 defeat against Ghana after they had fought back from 2-0 down leaves the Koreans staring elimination in the face.
A victory for South Korea by two goals or more and a draw in the Ghana – Uruguay match will see the Koreans through. If Ghana win, they are out. If Uruguay win, then South Korea’s margin of victory may well come into play. All the Koreans can do is take care of their opponents and hope for the best.
Portugal on the other hand have already booked their place in the last 16 and may choose to experiment in this game. It would take a Ghanaian victory and a three-goal-swing to knock Portugal off their perch.
Injuries and Suspensions
Might not play: Ronaldo (Portugal); Kim Min-jae (South Korea)
Will not play: Mendes, Otavio, Pereira (Portugal)
South Korea vs Portugal Prediction Analysis
South Korea will be happy with the amount of possession they enjoyed against Ghana and also the number of attacking situations created, but this game calls for a balance between their enterprising approach that was on show there and the rather timid performance against Uruguay in their group opener where they had 0 shots on target. It’s a difficult balancing act, but the Koreans have to go for it due to their possible elimination while also exercising some defensive responsibility – if they find themselves behind, it just makes their task that much harder.
We don’t anticipate that Portugal will make wholesale changes because the prospect of a last 16 match against World Cup favourites Brazil is a daunting prospect, so while Santos may make a couple of changes here and there, their starting lineup should still contain some of his preferred starting XI.
Portugal have an embarrassment of riches at full back, so we may see Son Heung-min play more of a central attacking role this time around as he was highly effective during parts of the second half against Ghana – a stark contrast to his involvement in the first half. It makes sense to make it more difficult for Portugal to be able to pick him up, even at the possible expense of team shape, because a draw here is no good to the Koreans. We could see Mainz’s Lee Jae-sung perform a different role for the team here in light of this strategy, playing in the channels when the Koreans are in possession before coming back inside when Portugal have the ball.
Portugal possess an obvious threat from their fullbacks, with both Joao Cancelo and the likely incoming Diogo Dalot both capable of venturing forward and causing problems. Cancelo in particular is capable of producing something from nothing as he so often has for club and country in recent years, and therefore we can expect to see Cancelo feature heavily again here. A point of interest here is the possible inclusion of Benfica’s Joao Mario in the starting 11. While notionally a replacement for Bruno Fernandes, Mario is a positionally versatile attacker who pops up everywhere, and with Portugal somewhat reliant on counters and crosses in their opening two matches it’ll be interesting to see if he can add another dimension to the Portuguese attack and perhaps stake a claim for possible inclusion in their next match.
South Korea will almost certainly stick with Cho Gue-sung following his impressive cameo against Uruguay and his two goals against Ghana last time out. Cho unlocked the potential of the South Korean attack in the last game, allowing them to turn crosses into dangerous opportunities and, with the benefit of hindsight, it’s something of a mystery as to why he wasn’t selected to start againt the Uruguayans. For all intents and purposes, we can expect Son Heung-min to perform primarily as a forward in this game too. The Koreans will be hoping that Son’s direct style and tireless work-rate will pay dividends against what could be a weakened Portuguese back line with Mendes and Pereira still missing through injury.
Fernando Santos has shown considerable loyalty to former Manchester United striker Cristiano Ronaldo during this tournament and we see no reason why he won’t start again here. Instead, we feel it’s Joao Felix who will be rested. Ricardo Horta has been uninvolved in the tournament so far, but he could see some valuable game time here. Portugal need an injection of pace in forward areas as Ronaldo is no longer the explosive presence he once was, and with Joao Felix rested Horta will be relied upon to stretch the Koreans.
South Korea Key Players
Hands up who didn’t see this one coming. South Korea looked like a completely different team in the second half against Ghana when a tactical re-jig saw the Spurs man playing with far more freedom, often centrally. The Koreans can’t afford to play it safe any longer, they need to hurt the Portuguese back line and Son is a proven threat with the ball at his feet. When out of possession, Portugal are happy to let the opposition have the ball in non-dangerous areas, so possession won’t be the issue for the Koreans – avoiding empty possessions is of paramount importance, and Son doesn’t hang about.
Cho was able to provide the South Korean attack with a desperately needed extra dimension in attack following a defensively solid yet impotent performance against Uruguay. Ghana struggled to deal with Cho’s movement and physicality at times and he proved to be a highly valuable target for Korean crosses. We expect the Koreans to attack directly in this game when confronted with the strength of the Portuguese midfield, so Cho’s abilities will be important again.
Portugal Key Players
As it’s likely that Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva will both be rested, Cancelo’s role in the team will be that more important as Portugal will need some invention from wide areas in the final third. Cancelo’s ability to cut in-field and play as an auxilliary attacking midfielder could also prove to be hugely important here in order to ensure that the Portuguese attack doesn’t become too predictable.
Joao Mario has the chance to prove that he’s deserving of further inclusion as Portugal progress through the tournament and the Benfica man will be determined to grab his opportunity with both hands. A highly versatile attacking midfielder, Mario will be required to partially fill in for the missing Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva and to provide a secondary goal threat from deep. Coming in off the back of a wonderful run of form for his club side, Mario, like Horta, could provide something different.
South Korea vs Portugal Prediction
We expect a tight yet entertaining game, with the Koreans desperate for the victory and Portugal wanting to avoid the spectre of a round of 16 clash with Brazil. Ultimately, both teams should create a few decent chances but with Portugal likely to rest some players we think the draw is more likely.