Saturday, June 26, 2010

Uruguay vs. South Korea in World Cup

Luis Suárez's 8th minute goal was the only tally of the half, and if the second half plays out the same way as the first's final 37 minutes, Uruguay's 1-0 lead may carry La Celeste into the quarterfinals.

After Suárez's goal, the Uruguayans sat deeper in defense, with their three midfielders habitually camped just yards in front of their penalty box. South Korea was able to dominate possession, holding 57 percent at the whistle, but failed to get a shot on goal, with their best chance after the goal being a long shot from right back Cha Du-Ri.

South Korea did hit the post in the 4th minute when Park Chu-Young's direct kick hit Fernando Muslera's right post.

Four minutes later, a Diego Forlan pass from Uruguay's left flank alluded goalkeeper Jung Sung-Ryong, finding Suárez unmarked at the back post for an uncontested finish.

The remainder of Uruguay's first half chances can off isolated, counter-attack opportunities.

Uruguay has scored the crucial first goal in their Round of 16 match against South Korea, with Luis Suárez finishing into an empty net after a Diego Forlán cross took the defense out of the equations.

Forlán, from the far left of attack, played a ball across the box, perfectly between the back line and goalkeeper Jung Sung-Ryong. Jung's mistimed dive for the ball took him out of the play, with Suárez taking the ball at the far post for an easy, unmarked finish in the 8th minute

The first goal is particularly vital in this match, as Uruguay has yet to allow a goal in 278 minutes of the 2010 World Cup.

Park Chu-Young has certainly figured out the Jabulani, with the South Korean forward hitting the post with a 20-yard direct kick in the fourth minute of the Asian Tigers' Round of 16 match against Uruguay.

Park scored from a direct kick against Nigeria in group play, and in the fourth minute against Uruguay, the Korean put a kick up and over the wall, against Fernando Muslera's right post.

We didn’t hear much discussion of a possible Uruguay-South Korea match-up, but with the pair kicking-off knockout stage action, we’re given a compelling contrast of styles and tactics to start the next phase of the 2010 World Cup.

South Korea’s fluid approach, relying on its wing play, will go up against a Uruguay team that’s content to sit-back with a stalwart defense and rely on it’s counter-attack. Should that approach lead to an early goal for Uruguay, South Korea’s likely in for a long, frustrating day running their attack into a set-up that’s yet to allow a goal.

Uruguay, Going Forward: Diego Forlán may not be the best player in this tournament, but he has been the most important, with his shift from a role along the line to a withdrawn striker’s role being the defining moment of Uruguay’s group stage.

After one match, Uruguay sat with one point and no goals, having guided France to a scoreless draw. Oscar Tabárez’s plan seemed to be contain France, get the point, and insert midfielder Nicolas Lodiero - his most creative player, but a player who did not fit into his plans versus France - to try and get wins against South Africa and Mexico. But Lodiero came-on in the second half against France, earned two yellow cards, and foiled Tábarez’s plans. Without another creative midfielder, Uruguay required a change more drastic than a mere player swap in order to generate a better attack.

Tábarez decided to more Forlán toward the midfield, something that looks sublime now but was not an obvious move at the time. The counter point: the move takes Uruguay’s best goal scorer and move him farther from goal, a decision other managers would not have made. Tábarez deserves credit for pulling the proverbial trigger on the change, one that rocketed the Uruguayans to the top of Group A and avoided a Round of 16 match with Argentina.

South Korea, whose defense has allowed six goals in three matches, most stop Forlán, Edinson Cavani and Luis Suárez - Tábarez’s three forwards - a task that will fall largely upon central defenders Lee Jung-Soo and Cho Yong-Hyung, a duo that is unfairly linked with that high total of goals allowed. One tally was an own goal. Another was from the spot. Another was an mistake solely attributable to their right back, and while the last two goals against Argentina are rightfully linked with them, the goals came when Korea was behind and pressing. Where every goal has a story and one person’s story is another’s excuse, South Korea has some interesting excuses.

Whatever the reason for the six goals, Korea has to improve. A strong performance from the Lee-Cho pair in dealing with an Uruguay attack the often works middle-out will buy enough time for the Tigers’ to break-down the Uruguayans.

South Korea, Going Forward: South Korea may have the best wing play of the advancing teams, with captain Park Ji-Sung and young attacker Lee Chung-Yong patrolling opposite flanks. On the ball, they’re capable of taking on defenders or working with the likes of midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng or forward Park Chu-Young to navigate through a defense. Off the ball, they are adept at reading build-up in the middle or on the opposite wing and making themselves dangerous on the weak side of play. Each are capable of playing narrow and supporting through the middle should Huh Jung-Moo’s tactics call for it.

Each present an advantage against a Uruguay defense that, although yet to allow a goal, lacks the quickness in personnel to keep-up-with Park or Lee. However, what the defense lacks in quickness they make up for in strength and tactics, with Tábarez playing conservatively at the back, his midfielders sitting deep. While this creates the gap Forlán’s repositioning’s been forced to address, it also has enabled La Celeste to go 270 minutes without conceding.

Though it won’t be easy, Park and Lee should be able to beat right back Maxi Pereira and the left back (be it Jorge Fucile or Mauricio Victorino), be it going wide or cutting-in. After that, however, Korea is doing to have to find away around center halves Diego Lugano and Diego Godín (or Victorino) or hope the likes of Diego Pérez and Egidio Arévalo start making mistakes in filling spaces in defense. As conservatively as those two midfielders play, it is unlikely they will be caught out-of-position.

In response, South Korea is going to have to be relentless - keep pushing and hope the quantity of chances they create increases the likelihood Uruguay will make a mistake. They also need to be conscious of needlessly giving away the ball and giving the Uruguayans a chance to utilize their attackers. Holding off on low-percentage crosses and relying on Ki’s presence in midfield will help maintain possession, increase the opportunities for Uruguay to make a mistake defending, as well as limit the chances for La Celeste’s three attackers.

How The Match Turns: Uruguay can get a goal at any time, and if they do, this match becomes South Korea hammering away at Uruguayans holding for a win, waiting for a counter that will put the match away. The more patient the South Koreans are, the less likely this is to happen, and the longer we go where either of these evenly-matched teams could take this match.