For the first time since 1970, Uruguay has moved on to the quarterfinals of the World Cup. The two-time Cup winners were not threatened much in the first half, but did well to grab a late winner in a close contest.
South Korea’s Park Chu-Young looked like opening the scoring in the fifth minute. His curling free kick on the left side of the box drilled the woodwork, and spared Uruguay’s perfect defensive record thus far in the tournament. It didn’t take the Uruguayans long to respond with a chance of their own, and Diego Forlan’s cross in the eighth minute found a wide open Luis Suarez. In a tight angle, Suarez stuck it in the side netting through a quality finish.
The rest of the first half was pretty listless, with South Korea starting to get a little more possession in the final ten minutes but not capitalizing.
The second half afforded some great opportunities for South Korea to get back in the game, and it was evident that the aging Uruguayan backline was getting tired and was having trouble dealing with a soaked pitch in Port St. Elizabeth. Park Chu-Young wasted the first good chance in the 51st after a poor clearance from Uruguay Captain Diego Lugano. Uruguay seemed more and more content to park the bus, until another botched clearance led to the Korean equalizier. From a free kick in the 68th, Bolton forward Lee Chung-Yong headed it in the poor clearance to give the Asian nation a lifeline.
Just a couple minutes later, Chung-Yong had a great chance to double his tally through Park Ji Sung, but hit a tame shot right at keeper Fernando Muslera. Past that, the Koreans attack had been buoyed and it proved costly. Uruguay took the lead, and further punched their ticket into the quarters through a moment of brilliance from Ajax man Luis Suarez. A failed corner in the 80th saw the ball collected by Suarez at the left edge of the box, and he curled in a beatiful strike off the post that sunk Korean hearts. Suarez’ double was complete, and Uruguay escaped a late scare to progress.
One of the most highly-righted young strikers in the field has proven his high scoring rate at Ajax is legitimate. The Eredivisie always produces impressive scoring rates, but Suarez is beginning to look more of Robin Van Persie’s ilk than say Afonso Alves.
There is reason for concern though, as fatigue looked like sending Uruguay home in the latter portion of the second half. They were the better team for ninety minutes, but either USA or Ghana will be encouraged about their chances to knock them off.