Saturday, June 26, 2010

Uruguay vs South Korea Preview - 2010 World Cup Last 16

At every World Cup finals there will always be one dark horse who’ll reach the latter stages of the tournament.
With the last 16 beginning in Port Elizabeth, the first two competitors vying for a place in the quarter-finals could well be 2010’s surprise package.
Uruguay and South Korea may be two vastly different teams in terms of style; but both have impressed and could conceivably set their sights on reaching the semi-finals with a victory this weekend.

Having lifted the Jules Rimet trophy in 1930 – the tournament’s inaugural year – and then again in 1950, the Uruguayans have a rich, decorated history when it comes to the most prestigious competition in world football.
South Korea, meanwhile, have only come to the fore in recent years. A fourth place-finish in 2002 sparked the country’s love affair with the sport, and is the reason why thousands turned out again in Seoul to watch their national team reach the second round on Tuesday.

Their passionate supporters back at home and those fortunate enough to be in South Africa will now be dreaming of replicating their incredible run of eight years ago, where they beat Italy and Spain on the way to their first semi-final.

However, after being outclassed by Argentina and held to a 2-2 draw against Nigeria in the group stages, Huh Jung-Moo’s side have ridden their luck to a degree, and are not the most technically gifted side in the last 16. They know that. But what they lack in talent, they more than make up for in heart and discipline.

As for Uruguay, their Group A campaign could hardly have gone much better. Barring a disappointing opening 0-0 draw against France in Cape Town, the South Americans breezed comfortably past hosts South Africa and then recorded a confidence-boosting 1-0 win over Mexico.
Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez’s partnership has already flourished upfront; while a solid defensive performance saw them keep three clean sheets from their three group matches – an impressive record by any standards.

They will enter Saturday’s match as firm favourites to advance to the quarter-finals, where they would then meet the winner of the USA v Ghana match, due to take place later on Saturday in Rustenburg. Surely manager Oscar Tabarez will already be daydreaming of his side reaching their first semi-final for 40 years – not that he’d admit it, of course.

But the South Koreans are no pushovers, and the way in which they overcame Greece 2-0 in the opening match of Group B proves that on their day they can test the best sides.
Like Uruguay, South Korea’s key players have all stood up and been counted in the group stages. Captain Park Ji-Sung has been instrumental, Park Chu-Young popped up with his side’s all important second goal against Nigeria and Lee Chung-Yong has also impressed.

The last 16 is where it really matters, though. For some of the smaller nations in the second round, being overawed by the occasion can be a genuine problem – one which has cost countless teams in the past. Fortunately for the Taegeuk Warriors, their invaluable experience from 2002 should hold them in good stead against the Uruguayans.


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