Ghana readies for South Korea after opening World Cup loss

Nov 26, 2022, 1:13 PM | Updated: Nov 27, 2022, 5:57 am
South Korea's Son Heung-min adjusts a mask during the South Korea's official training on the eve of...

South Korea's Son Heung-min adjusts a mask during the South Korea's official training on the eve of the group H World Cup soccer match between South Korea and Ghana, at the Al Egla Training Site 5 in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

(AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

              South Korea's Son Heung-min adjusts a mask during the South Korea's official training on the eve of the group H World Cup soccer match between South Korea and Ghana, at the Al Egla Training Site 5 in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
            
              South Korea's Son Heung-min adjusts a mask during the South Korea's official training on the eve of the group H World Cup soccer match between South Korea and Ghana, at the Al Egla Training Site 5 in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
            
              South Korea's Son Heung-min adjusts a mask during the South Korea's official training on the eve of the group H World Cup soccer match between South Korea and Ghana, at the Al Egla Training Site 5 in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
            
              South Korean players warm up during a training session at Al Egla Training Site 5 in Doha, Qatar, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. South Korea will play its second match in Group H in the World Cup against Ghana on Nov. 28. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
            
              Fans of Ghana cheer during a World Cup group H soccer match against Portugal at the Stadium 974 in Doha, Qatar, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
            
              South Korea's Son Heung-min warms up during the South Korea's official training on the eve of the group H World Cup soccer match between South Korea and Ghana, at the Al Egla Training Site 5 in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
            
              Ghana's head coach Otto Addo gestures during the World Cup group H soccer match between Portugal and Ghana, at the Stadium 974 in Doha, Qatar, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Ghana coach Otto Addo has been impressed with Son Heung-min ever since he coached the South Korea forward at the youth level.

The two will be reunited on Monday when Ghana meets South Korea in Group H at the World Cup at Education City Stadium.

Addo was working for German club Hamburg when he first encountered Son, who he recommended for the first team.

“He’s very, very disciplined. So he became so good because he worked hard for it. This is what I hoped for, and I expected it,” Addo said Sunday before the match.

He added with a smile: “I always wish him all the best, except tomorrow.”

Son and the South Koreans challenged Uruguay in their tough Group H opener, coming away with a 0-0 draw.

Son personified that bravery, wearing a mask to protect a broken left eye socket and cheered on by fans wearing Batman masks. He was injured playing for Tottenham on Nov. 2 in a Champions League match against Marseille that limited his training in the runup to the World Cup.

“It’s not about being worried or not as far as Son is concerned, he was recently injured and he was trying to feel comfortable with the face mask,” South Korea coach Paulo Bento said. “He needed to feel at ease with his teammates and his opponents.”

Bento said winger Hwang Hee-chan was still struggling with a hamstring injury and would not play against Canada.

Addo, who played for Ghana, is one of five African coaches leading the five African teams at the World Cup in Qatar. He joins Cameroon’s Rigobert Song, Senegal’s Aliou Cisse, Morocco’s Walid Regragui and Tunisia’s Jalel Kadri.

“I think this is a very big step for Africa. In the previous years, there were not so many coaches, so its a big task for Africa to develop more coaches — not only to coach African teams, but to coach other teams, teams in Europe, and I think the world is lacking this,” Addo said.

Ghana heads into Tuesday’s match against South Korea after losing to Portugal 3-2 in its opener. All five of the African teams were winless in their first group matches, but Tunisia rebounded with a victory over Qatar in its second game.

“Everybody still has chances, some more, some less, but I’m hoping and praying at least one or two (African) teams can advance to the next stage,” said Addo, who played for Ghana when the country made its first appearance in the World Cup in 2006.

At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Ghana became the third African nation to make it to the quarterfinals. No African team has reached the semifinals at soccer’s biggest tournament.

The Black Stars are the youngest team at the World Cup, with an average age of 24 years, 4 months. So it was encouraging that they held their own against Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo, whose 65th-minute penalty made him the first male player to score at five World Cups.

Afterward, Addo called the penalty “a special gift from the referee” but on Sunday he was eager to move on.

“It’s in the past,” he said. “It’s gone. It’s over. We can’t change it.”

Veteran captain Andre Ayew and Osman Bukari scored for Ghana against Portugal. Ayew was also on the Ghana team that went to the quarterfinals at the 2010 World Cup. Ghana was eliminated in the group stage at the 2014 tournament, and did not make the field for Russia in 2018.

“Of course we are aware they have high-quality players, Andre Ayew is one of them with all the experience he has over the years,” Bento said. “Of course we need to neutralize these (good) players and he’s very skillful with a lot of experience. But we need to view Ghana as a collective.”

With the win, Portugal leads Group H going into the second set of group matches. Ghana sits at the bottom and would be eliminated if it loses to South Korea.

South Korea is making its sixth straight World Cup appearance. The team lost to Turkey in the third-place match as co-hosts at the 2002 World Cup.

___

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Ghana readies for South Korea after opening World Cup loss