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Home   /   South Korea can only produce stalemate with Uruguay

South Korea and Uruguay picked up a point each in their opening group game of the 2022 Fifa World Cup, leaving them both on one point in Group H. Despite both sides having talented players going forward, it was the defences that shone most with only one shot on target in the whole 98 minutes played, the lowest at the tournament so far. South Korea will be fairly happy with the result as they went into the game as underdogs.

Uruguay went closest to winning a tight game, with Federico Valverde smashing the woodwork from distance with a thunderous shot. Valverde is no stranger to finding the back of the net this season, scoring eight goals in 20 appearances this season for Real Madrid. The Uruguayan formed a formidable midfield alongside Tottenham midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur and Lazio midfielder Matias Vecino, but the South American side were not able to control the game and only really managed to put South Korea under real pressure late into the second half.

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Uruguay also hit the woodwork in the first half, much to the frustration of Diego Godin who thought his header was destined for the bottom corner. The veteran defender rose highest to connect with Valverde’s corner, but could only watch as his effort struck the inside of the post before bouncing back out to a South Korea defender. It was very much of a game of two halves though with Korea having the better of the first half and Uruguay gaining control in the second 45 minutes. Paulo Bento’s side played some nice football in the first half and could have very easily taken the lead after 35 minutes. Ui-Jo missed a glorious chance from inside the box to put his side ahead after he was found in huge space by a brilliant low cross.

South Korea managed to keep consecutive clean sheets in the Fifa World Cup for the first time in their history, following the 2-0 victory in the group stages in the 2018 tournament and now this draw against Uruguay. The result against Germany in 2018 was arguably the biggest since the nation’s incredible run in 2002 where they reached the semi-finals, beating the likes of of Portugal, Italy and Spain. Despite that famous result against Germany, South Korea were knocked out of the group stages after losing their first two matches and this more positive start against a tricky opponent will give them belief that they can reach the knockout stages.

Paulo Bento’s side were very organised throughout the match, not allowing the opposition any space and did brilliantly up against former Barcelona striker Luis Suarez and Liverpool striker Darwin Nunez. Kim Min Jae was key to the quality of the South Korea defending with some excellent tackles and interceptions. The defender nicknamed ‘the monster’ is having a phenomenal season at Napoli following his summer move and continued his fine form on the world’s biggest stage.

Korean superstar Son Heung-Min was kept unusually quiet by a typically strong Uruguay defence, thwarting Bento’s sides biggest threat. Son, who was wearing a protective mask following a broken cheekbone suffered against Marseille, has had a difficult season for Tottenham, scoring just three goals in the Premier League so far. The jubilant Korean supporters went crazy every time the ball even went near the national hero and they will be hoping that he can find the form that saw him pick up the Premier League golden boot last season.

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Following Portugal’s narrow victory over Ghana later in the day, both sides sit joint second in the group after the first matchday. Bento’s side now face a crunch match against Ghana on Monday knowing they probably need to pick up all three points, with group favorites Portugal to come on the final match day. If South Korea can pick up victory against Ghana and Portugal can defeat Uruguay in the next round of matches then Son’s side will just need a point in their final game against Portugal to ensure qualification into the next round.

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May 2024