DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Ghana coach Otto Addo has been impressed with Son Heung-min ever since he coached the South Korean forward at the youth level.
The two will be reunited on Monday when Ghana meets South Korea in a World Cup Group H match at Qatar’s Education City Stadium.
Atto was an working for Germany’s Hamburg when he first encountered Son, who he recommended for the club’s 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.
Addo 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.
“In terms of offense, we had a very good performance,” South Korea coach Paulo Bento said through a translator. “We are a brave team, we are not afraid of our rivals.”
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 on Nov. 2 in a Champions League match against Marseille that limited his training in the runup to the World Cup.
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 head coach 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’ match against South Korea after losing 3-2 to Portugal in its opener. All five of the African teams were winless in their first group-stage matches, but Tunisia rebounded with a victory over Qatar in its second game.
The Black Stars are the youngest team at the World Cup, with an average age of 24 years and four months. So it was encouraging that they held their own against Portugal and star 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 keen 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 he field for Russia in 2018.
With the win, Portugal led Group H going into the second round of group-stage matches. Ghana sits at the bottom of the table and would be eliminated if it loses to South Korea.
South Korea was 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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