Kick Off: Saturday, June 25, 2010. 16:00 CET
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Tough To Tackle
The time for sparring is over. The real World Cup now begins, with half of the initial 32 hopefuls already on the plane home. Meanwhile, Uruguay and South Korea take to the field knowing that one mistake could be the difference between elimination and progression.
Oscar Tabarez’s Celeste have impressed thus far. After an opening day draw against France, they’ve rattled three by hosts South Africa and then claimed a victory against Mexico to top Group A. Unbeaten and yet to even concede a goal, confidence is growing steadily in the South Americans’ camp.
“We’ve showed that we are a tough team to tackle for the others,” the coach mused to the PA. “We are trying to do what we had exactly in mind before the tournament. Now I don't think we've achieved that yet, but Uruguay is now a difficult opponent for anybody.”
But it is not only the technical staff who are satisfied with the way the Celeste’s campaign is going. Match winner against Mexico, Luis Suarez, stated to the press after the encounter against el Tri: “We've got what it takes to keep progressing in the competition.”
For the first time in 20 years, Uruguay are in the knockout stages of the World Cup, and they are certainly aiming to confound the 5.1 per cent chance the Castrol World Cup Predictor gives them of winning the competition.
Treat It Like A Final
Over the course of the last decade, South Korea actually have a greater World Cup pedigree than their opponents, who claimed the crown on two occasions in the competition’s early days. As recently as 2002, the Taegeuk Warriors were eliminated at the semi-final stage by Germany, but it was not until they defeated Greece only a couple of weeks ago that they won a second finals game outside their own nation (the first coming during Germany 2006).
Following that opening day success over the Greeks, South Korea were quickly brought back down to earth by a rout at the hands of Argentina. Probably needing only a point to qualify against Nigeria, Huh Jung-Moo’s side rather scraped home courtesy of a 2-2 draw. An estimated 500,000 Koreans watched that match in public squares, despite it kicking off at 03:30 local time.
Now the focus is very much on the Celeste.
“We watched a few of Uruguay's games, they have quality and they are strong and their performances were great in the group stages. We have to prepare well for that game,” Park Ji-Sung explained to The Daily Yomiuri.
“We're just thinking about the next game, we don't want to think about the game after that. Our goal was the last 16, so now we just focus on every single game coming up and treat it as the final.”
In the ‘weakest’ section of the draw, the Koreans have an opportunity to emulate their heroics of 2002, though on foreign turf this would certainly be an even greater achievement.
WON 1-0 (n) Mexico (World Cup, June 22)
WON 3-0 (a) South Africa (World Cup, June 16)
DREW 0-0 (n) France (World Cup, June 11)
WON 4-1 (h) Israel (Friendly, May 26)
WON 3-1 (a) Switzerland (Friendly, March 3)
DREW 2-2 (n) Nigeria (World Cup, June 22)
LOST 4-1 (n) Argentina (World Cup, June 17)
WON 2-0 (n) Greece (World Cup, June 12)
LOST 1-0 (n) Spain (Friendly, June 3)
LOST 1-0 (n) Belarus (Friendly, May 30)
Oscar Tabarez has shown in recent days that he’s content with the manner in which his side are playing. There won’t be too many alterations away from his first choice unit, with an unchanged XI expected.
Probable Starting XI: Muslera; M. Pereira, Lugano, Godin, Fucile; Perez, Arevalo, A. Pereira; Forlan; Suarez, Cavani
No significant variation is expected in the South Korean squad either. Coach Huh Jung-Moo should have a full panel of players to select from and will likely keep faith with the men who got his side this far.
Probable Starting XI: Jung Sung-Ryong; Cha Du-Ri, Cho Yong-Hyung, Lee Jung-Soo, Lee Young-Pyo; Park Ji-Sung, Kim Jung-Woo, Ki Sung-Yong, Lee Chung-Yong; Park Chu-Young, Lee Dong-Guk
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Diego Forlan has thus far been one of the players of the tournament. He has led the Uruguayan line with distinction, scoring a couple of goals against South Africa, including one that is a contender for the best of the competition. Seemingly at the peak of his game and comfortable in the Celeste’s set-up, he will take some stopping.
Park Chu-Young will be the man primarily charged with breaking down Uruguay’s steely rearguard. The Monaco striker has been in good form during the World Cup to date, despite an own goal against Argentina in the second game. It was his free-kick that ultimately carried the Taeguek Warriors into the knockout stages, and he will be hungry for more goals against the Celeste.
Uruguay have very much been one of the form teams of the competition to date and look good to seal their passage into the quarter-finals for the first time in 40 years. South Korea certainly won’t make life easy for their South American opponents, but Oscar Tabarez’s side should be a little too stable and have a little too much flair for their opponents.
Uruguay 2-0 South Korea