Paulo Bento played for Portugal against Korea Republic at the 2002 finals
Now he is set to coach the Taegeuk Warriors against his country of birth
He discusses how emotional it will be and facing Cristiano Ronaldo
The Final Draw for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ was an exciting occasion for fans all over the world, though few of them will have understood exactly how Paulo Bento felt when it was over. The Korea Republic coach, and former Portugal midfielder, will be up against his country of his birth in Group H, a section that also contains Ghana and Uruguay. Bento knows that emotionally, the final first-phase outing at Education City Stadium will be challenging. “I said yesterday that it was not something I wanted,” he told FIFA after the draw. “Obviously, from a sporting point of view, we’ll approach the game in same way, with the same care and the same level of preparation as we have against the teams we’ve played in the past, and as we will all the teams we’re going to face in the group phase. “However, I know it’s not going to be an easy game in an emotional sense. Regardless of what the situation will be by the time the game comes around, it’s definitely going to be an emotional challenge for me. It’s a first for me and it’s sure to be a different experience.” As fate would have it, Bento was on the pitch for the only previous World Cup meeting between the two sides, when the Taegeuk Warriors won 1-0 in the group phase at Korea/Japan 2002 to send the Seleção das Quinas out of the competition.
Korea Republic are the second national team Bento has taken charge of in a coaching career which began two years after that World Cup exit. The first was his home nation, between 2010 and 2014, when he took Portugal to Brazil 2014. In the Taegeuk Warriors job since August 2018, Bento will come up against a side spearheaded by Cristiano Ronaldo in his quest to reach the Round of 16. “We know what Cristiano can do but there’s much more to the national team than that,” he said.
Bento will at least have the sympathy of his Portugal counterpart Fernando Santos as he prepares for this unusual challenge. “With us both coming from the same country, we obviously don’t want to play each other before the final phase, but that’s just the way it is,” Santos told FIFA. “I hope we both go through.”