AL RAYYAN, Qatar — Cristiano Ronaldo was “insulted” by South Korean player Cho Gue-sung as he left the pitch, according to Fernando Santos, as the Portuguese coach tried to defend the striker’s frustrated reaction to being substituted.
Ronaldo appeared to have a verbal exchange with Cho as he walked towards the benches and then put his finger to his mouth.
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The 37-year-old looked unhappy at the decision to send him off in the 65th minute, but after the 2-1 defeat that sent South Korea into the last 16, Santos insisted his interaction with Cho had left the former Manchester United forward “angry”. .
“The Korean player was insulting him, telling him to leave, so that’s why he was angry, everyone saw it,” Santos said.
“I saw the interaction with the Korean player and I have no doubts about that, and if you see the pictures, you see that Pepe went towards the Korean player.
“He wasn’t aggressive, he was just verbally aggressive, he spoke in English to Cristiano and Cristiano said: ‘Maybe he had a bad day’.”
Ronaldo told Portuguese reporters that Cho was trying to chase him off the pitch.
“What happened was before I was substituted, the South Korean player told me to leave quickly. I told him to be quiet because he doesn’t have that authority. There was no disagreement [with the coach]”, quoted Ronaldo.
South Korean midfielder Hwang In-Beom had little to say about the incident.
“I didn’t see, I was too tired,” he said. – I was looking at the ground, but I didn’t see and I have nothing to say.
Portugal still finished top of Group H despite conceding a 91st-minute winner to Hwang Hee-chan, which saw South Korea pip Uruguay for a place in the knockout rounds.
Santos’ side are set to face the second-placed team from Group H — possibly Switzerland, Serbia or Cameroon — but he insisted defeat to South Korea should serve as a “warning” to his side.
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“We are somewhat upset,” Santos added.
“We are first in the group, but we wanted to win and have a better game to boost the morale of the players. But this result serves as a warning to our team.”
Meanwhile, South Korea will face Brazil after qualifying for the second round for the first time since 2010.
They went all the way until Hwang’s dramatic winner saw them qualify on goals scored ahead of Uruguay, who exited the World Cup despite beating Ghana 2-0.
Before the match, Son Heung-min told me that I would create something today, Hwang said.
“He said, ‘We trust you.’ When I came on as a substitute, many teammates also said they believed in me. When Son got the ball I was confident he was going to pass me and it was a great pass. It made my job easier.
“It was difficult to wait for the second result, but we proved that we can reach the knockout stage and we kept that confidence. It’s something we wanted and expected. I want to share these great feelings with the Korean people at home.”