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World Cup: Uruguay old order fails to tame South Korea’s spirit

Goalless draw in a lively match turned out to be fair in the end as both the teams had their chances during the 90 minutes of action
Edinson Cavani.
Edinson Cavani.
File photo

Angshuman Roy   |   Doha   |   Published 25.11.22, 03:21 AM

A day after Japan hit the headlines with the win over Germany, there was a buzz over South Korea’s Group H match against Uruguay. Since Wednesday night, Doha was discussing if South Korea would also do a Saudi Arabia and Japan.

On match-day morning, a South Korean family was all decked up with flags. They were going to the Education City ground to root for their favourite team. There was plenty of support for Korea at the ground but that could not earn them a win.

The goalless draw in a lively match turned out to be fair in the end as both the teams had their chances during the 90 minutes of action. Uruguay’s Diego Godin and Federico Valverde rattled the woodwork in each half, Korea’s inspirational captain Son Heung-min’s attempt missed the target by inches and Hwang Uijo lifted the ball to the crowd from a position he should have hit the target.

South Korea are a regular feature in the World Cups since 1986 and big guns always find them a difficult customer to deal with. If the 2002 World Cup was about their maiden semi-final appearance — also the only time they made the last four — in the last edition, they kicked out Germany with a 2-0 win.

The cream of South Korea and Japan are made up of first-team players in European clubs, so Latin America or Europe do not enjoy the psychological advantage they used to, say 20 years back. Fitness-wise also they are on par, if not better, with the big nations.

Korea saw Uruguay eye-to-eye every minute of the match and did not yield an inch without a fight. They posed some problems for the Uruguayan defence with Kim Jinsu and Hwang Inbeom being quite active on the flanks.

The two Uruguayan central defenders, Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez, are known for tough and no-nonsense defending, but they had to work overtime to ward off the Korean threat.

Once, Son, wearing a face mask after suffering a fracture around his left eye, broke free, but Gimenez’s superb tackle inside the box averted the danger.

For Uruguay, it has always been like that. Initially, they look like a team who will not cross the group stage and then suddenly shift gears. But it’s a fact that new players are not being seen in the Uruguay team. Otherwise, they would not have to bank on old guards like Luis Suarez, who looked out of shape and out of touch, and also his substitute, Edinson Cavani, upfront.

Darwin Nunez (23) is there, so are Valverde (24) and Rodrigo Bentancur (24), but overall their cupboard seems to be bare. Nunez, on a rare occasion, found space on the left after his marker slipped and fell but could not release the ball to Suarez, who was waiting at the far post. Valverde, who as usual worked tirelessly, would consider himself unlucky after his trademark booming drive hit the post.



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