South Korea vs Portugal
South Korea let its emotions pour out when it lost a five-goal thriller to Ghana this week, but it can expect no sympathy on Friday from Portugal, which is determined to clinch the top spot in its World Cup group.
South Korea must beat the 2016 European champion - as it did at the 2002 World Cup on home soil - and hope that the result of the other final Group H match between Ghana and Uruguay goes its way too.
Striker Son Heung-min was in tears after Monday’s 3-2 loss to Ghana and coach Paulo Bento was shown a red card for arguing with the referee after he blew the final whistle with his team about to take a corner.
Bento will not be on the bench against Portugal.
Assistant coach Sergio Costa said South Korea would bounce back from their disappointment.
“We clearly deserved a win,” Costa said. “Count on us for the next match.”
South Korea has only one point after drawing its opening game against Uruguay and must beat Portugal to have any chance of progressing.
At the World Cup 20 years ago, South Korea beat a 10-man Portugal - whose team included Bento - in its final group game. The result meant Portugal did not qualify for the next round while the Koreans went on a run that took them to the semi-finals.
Portugal opened its campaign in Qatar with a 3-2 victory against Ghana before enjoying a more controlled 2-0 win over Uruguay on Monday.
But it is not assured of finishing top of its group, a position that would likely see it avoid Brazil in the last 16.
Captain Cristiano Ronaldo will have a chance to equal the record of World Cup goals scored for Portugal held by Eusebio, who racked up nine goals in 1966 in England, the only tournament he played in.
Ronaldo has scored eight goals in his five World Cups and he claimed his ninth in the win over Uruguay on Monday, only for the goal to be awarded to teammate Bruno Fernandes.
Ghana vs Uruguay
After five-goal thrillers in its opening two World Cup matches, Ghana may be hoping to reach the last 16 with a little less drama when it meets Uruguay on Friday, but its opponents must win to avoid a humiliating early exit.
A draw for the tournament’s lowest-ranked side could be enough for Ghana to join Portugal in the knockout phase, while a point could make for yet another nail-biter for the West Africans in Friday’s simultaneous two-match finale, where all four Group H teams have a shot at qualifying.
Perennial wild cards Uruguay must win in Al Wakrah to go through and will need to fire up its big-name forwards and shake off some dire form that saw it held by South Korea and outclassed by Portugal.
Veteran strikers Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani and talented newcomer Darwin Nunez all struggled in their opening matches, and coach Diego Alonso must choose whether to keep faith with them or opt for starts for Facundo Pellistri and Maxi Gomez, who have provided Uruguay’s few moments of excitement.
If Ghana plays for the draw, it will be gambling on already-qualified Portugal beating South Korea, a team famous for its fighting spirit, as proven when they came back from two goals down against Ghana on Monday, before losing 3-2.
For the Black Stars, a win could avenge an acrimonious quarter-final defeat by Uruguay in the 2010 World Cup, when Suarez used his hand to block an extra-time winner for Ghana, who missed the resulting spot-kick and lost in the penalty shootout that followed.
Uruguay has not exited a World Cup at the group stage in 20 years and coach Alonso knows something different and something special will be required against Ghana, which has reached the last 16 in two of its three World Cup appearances.
Alonso said he had faith in his players, but it would need to take risks against a team that knew Uruguay’s strengths and would seek to shut them down.
Serbia vs Switzerland
When Serbia plays Switzerland at the World Cup on Friday, it will be a head-to-head elimination match to get into the knockout round.
The European rivals will meet at Stadium 974 looking to advance alongside Group G leader Brazil.
Brazil’s 1-0 win over Switzerland on Monday, days after beating Serbia 2-0, sent the five-time world champion to the round of 16 even before playing its last game against Cameroon.
That left Switzerland in second place and likely needing only a draw with Serbia to advance. Not that the Swiss plan on settling for less than a victory.
“I don’t know a single team in the world that would go on the pitch aiming for a 0-0. That’s really dangerous,” Switzerland midfielder Djibril Sow said.
Still, Switzerland has a proven record of managing these situations in modern tournaments, advancing out of the group to the round of 16 at the past two World Cups and in the past two European Championships.
Serbia has not played a World Cup knockout match since becoming an independent nation, and a relative lack of tournament experience — playing at three of the four World Cups since 2010 but no European Championships — perhaps showed in Qatar.
Leading Cameroon 3-1 on Monday, the Serbians lost control and conceded back-to-back second-half goals quickly to draw the game.
Shaqiri and captain Granit Xhaka were key figures — with their goals and provocative celebrations — when the Swiss beat Serbia 2-1 at the last World Cup.
Barring an unlikely big win for Cameroon against Brazil on Friday, Switzerland and Serbia are playing for second place in the standings and a last-16 game Tuesday against the Group H winner — possibly Portugal.
That could suit either team. Serbia qualified for the tournament in Qatar by winning in Lisbon to top its qualifying group, while the Swiss and Portuguese traded home wins in June in the UEFA Nations League.
Brazil vs Cameroon
Brazil coach Tite is expected to rotate his World Cup squad for its final Group G match against Cameroon on Friday, to keep some players fresh for a likely last-16 match on Monday it finishes top of its group.
With its ticket already booked for the knockout stages after two wins, Brazil can rest players and wait for the return of others including Neymar, Alex Sandro and Danilo from injury.
Juventus left-back Alex Sandro suffered a hip injury in Brazil’s 1-0 win over Switzerland, while Paris St-Germain forward Neymar and Juventus right-back Danilo picked up ankle injuries in the opening 2-0 win over Serbia. Brazil team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar has given no specific timetable for their return.
Several Brazil players were also ill on Sunday, including midfielder Lucas Paqueta who missed Saturday’s training session and was used as a substitute in the game against Switzerland.
Cameroon will face Brazil without its goalkeeper Andre Onana, who has been dropped from the country’s squad for disciplinary reasons.
Brazil will top its group if it draws or wins. If it loses and Switzerland wins against Serbia, the top spot will be decided by goal difference.
The Swiss are second on three points, two ahead of Serbia and Cameroon, who have one point apiece. Both need to win to have any chance of progressing to second place, which would be decided by goal difference.
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