Dhe veteran stars Luis Suárez, Diego Godín and Co. gathered briefly on the pitch and didn’t quite know what to do with the disappointing zero number. The South Koreans looked much happier, bowed to their fans and even started a small lap of honour. South Korea’s star attacker Heung-Min Son drew a mixed conclusion: “I always want to win. We didn’t use our chances so well today,” he told ZDF. “Both sides are satisfied that they shared this point. I am very proud of our performance.”
The South Americans missed out on their hoped-for World Cup win on Thursday when al-Rayyan drew 0-0 at Education City Stadium and need to improve in the next group games against Portugal and Ghana in order to reach the World Cup round of 16 for the fourth time in a row. A point that also gives South Korea every chance of progressing. The two-time Asian champion had only made it past the preliminary round twice in ten World Cup appearances.
The former Barça goalscorer Suárez and Liverpool ace Darwin in Uruguay, plus the former Hamburger Son playing with a mask in the South Korean team – the concentrated offensive power on both sides actually made a lot of promises. However, a tough game developed in front of 41,663 spectators with only a few highlights. The Taeguk Warriors’ attacks mostly bounced off the resolute defense of Diego Godín and Co. On the other side, Uruguay lacked a bit of clout and brilliant ideas.
It took 19 minutes before anything happened at all. After a long ball from José María Giménez, Real star Federico Valverde shot over the goal after skilfully taking the ball with him. Shortly thereafter, Darwin missed in a promising position (22nd). However, Godín missed the two-time world champion’s greatest chance when he headed into the post just before the break (43′). For the 36-year-old, like Suárez (35), Edinson Cavani (35), Martín Cáceres (35) and Fernando Muslera (36), it should be the last World Cup. Cavani was unable to start against South Korea after suffering an ankle injury, the former Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United goalscorer coming on in the second half.
In South Korea, who played with Mainz’s Jae-Sung Lee in midfield, Ui-Jo Hwang missed the best chance in the first half when he was staged well by Moon-Hwan Kim, but just missed the goal (34′). Star striker Son, however, rarely showed his class. It was the first game for the lightning-fast Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur man following his eye fracture earlier in the month. The 30-year-old suffered repeated attacks from the Uruguayan defenders. Shortly before the end he had his best moment with a long-range shot just outside the goal.
The Koreans put in more effort in the second half, but Uruguay had the best chance. After a long ball from Godín, Darwin escaped his opponent, but the subsequent cross was defused by keeper Seung-Gyu Kim (63′). Liverpool’s million-dollar purchase missed another good opportunity in the closing stages with a shot from the edge of the penalty area (81′). Valverde hit the post with a powerful long-range shot (89′).