“Hide to win”… Group H opponents, ‘information warfare’ in Doha [2022 카타르 월드컵]

Ahead of the opening of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, participating countries have gathered at the scene of fierce battles one after another over the past week. Among them, South Korea, which entered Korea on the 14th, is included. However, there was no appearance of Uruguay, Ghana, and Portugal, which will face Korea in Group H. This is because even after the announcement of the final list, Uruguay and Ghana continued their last-minute training in the neighboring United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Portugal continued their last-minute training in their own countries. Unlike Korea, which started adapting early, they made the choice to minimize exposure to power by taking advantage of the fact that they were the last group.

Ghana national team midfielder Thomas Party (second from left) arrives at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar on the 18th. Doha = Reuters Yonhap News

These Group H opponents finally entered Doha. On the evening of the 18th (local time), Ghana, which will face Korea in the second round, was the first of the three teams to step on Qatar. In an evaluation match held in the UAE on the 17th, the Ghanaian players, who unexpectedly won 2-0 against Switzerland, ranked 15th in the FIFA rankings, and gained momentum, wore traditional costumes and entered the arrival hall amid enthusiastic welcomes from their native fans.

Then, on the night of the 18th, Portugal, which will meet Korea in the final third game of the group stage, also arrived. As a team with a large number of world-class stars, they entered Korea with a lot of fan support. Portugal also showed off its appearance as the strongest candidate for first place in Group H by winning 4-0 in the last match against Nigeria held in Lisbon on the 17th.

Cristian Ronaldo (right) of the Portuguese national soccer team trains with his teammates at the Al Shahaniya SC training ground outside Doha, Qatar, on the 19th (local time). Doha = Reuters Yonhap News

In addition, Uruguay, which only trained in the UAE without an evaluation match, arrived in Doha on the 19th and finally gathered all the teams in Group H in one place.

At the same time, a full-scale ‘information war’ began. The Football Association has not been officially informed of the time and date of entry into Qatar. I even inquired about the schedule to FIFA, but only the answer was ‘secret’. It means that the opposing countries are reluctant to even reveal the fine condition of the players through the entry scene.

Players of the Uruguay national soccer team talk before their first training session at the Al-Ersal training ground in Doha, Qatar, on the 19th (local time). Doha = AFP Yonhap News

Korea is also concerned about information leaks. On the 18th, national team coach Paulo Bento also issued a ‘silencer order’ about the extent of the injury and training digestion of Son Heung-min (30, Tottenham), who suffered an orbital fracture in training on the 18th. The status of Son Heung-min is also the information that Group H opponents are most keen on. As all four teams in Group H have gathered in Qatar, the number of overseas reporters visiting the Korean practice range will increase, so information management surrounding Son Heung-min is expected to continue for the time being.

In the midst of this, Uruguay, which will play its first group stage match against Korea on the 24th, trained at Al-Ersal Training Center on the evening of the day of entering Doha. Araujo (FC Barcelona), who underwent surgery after injuring his right thigh muscle at the end of September, also participated in the training. The training schedule was suddenly set, and only the first 15 minutes were revealed. All players, including Cristiano Ronaldo, who was at the center of controversy after recently criticizing Manchester United, South Korea and Portugal, the last opponent in the group stage, went to training, but this was only revealed for 15 minutes.

On the other hand, Ghana, Korea’s opponent in the second round of the group stage, took a break on the 19th when they arrived and set up a schedule for training on the 20th in the morning of the same day.

Son Heung-min

On the other hand, on the 19th, the day before the opening of the tournament, Korea held training twice, at 10:00 am and 5:00 pm. Hwang Hee-chan (26, Wolverhampton) and Yoon Jong-gyu (24, FC Seoul), who have hamstring discomfort, conducted recovery training separately at the training ground at the accommodation, and the rest of the players went to the Al Egla Training Center ground to train normally.

Instead, on the 20th, the opening day of the tournament, training was canceled and free time was given. From the 14th, the first day of arrival in Doha, the players were allowed to go out for a short time as the first full rest day given to the national team, which had been busy with training every day.

Doha = Reporter Seo Pil-woong [email protected]

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