The Cup Running Over

June 25, 2010 4:51 PM

Uruguay-South Korea Preview: Expect Surprises


The Good News: South Korea has displayed a much better attack than many expected -- five goals in three games -- and is one of the few teams in South Africa that hasn't been shut out at least once. They're especially good on set plays -- a product of spending hours practicing with the new ball in training sessions.

The Bad News:
As strong as the offense is, the defense is even weaker -- six goals in three games, among the worst at the Cup so far. And the one decent team they played -- Argentina -- routed them 4-1.

This is only the second time in eight appearances that South Korea has gotten to the knockout round and it's the first time outside Asia. When hosting in 2002, South Korea went all the way to the semis.

Player to Watch:
Park Ji-Sung, the quick midfield captain and Man United player who is a national hero in South Korea. On a team ruled by hierarchy, the team will take its cues from him, so he must play well for South Korea to advance.

To Win:
Scoring first would be a huge advantage, as it would force Uruguay out its defensive posture and possibly shake up the opponents, who haven't conceded yet at the tournament. If the South Koreans have to chase the game, the Uruguayans likely have them where they want them.

A strong performance from Park Ji-Sung is essential for South Korea to survive. (Courtesy -- UK Telegraph)


The Good News: Uruguay won its group for the first time since 1950 -- which is when it last won the World Cup too. It accomplished the feat with a suffocating defense that shut out all three opponents. The key was a tactical shift -- from a 3-5-2 in the opening game against France to a more fluid 4-3-1-2. Uruguay also has one of the best offensive tandems at the tournament -- Diego Forlan and Luiz Suarez. Against South Korea's weak backline, they could have a field day.

The Bad News: I
n the qualifiers at least, they were woefully inconsistent. And, no one knows how this defensive team might play if it gets behind. Not as well, one imagines.

Uruguay was once the leading power in the sport but that was several generations ago. This is "La Celeste's" first appearance in the knockout round since 1990; it hasn't gone any farther than the first game in the knockout round since 1970.

Player to Watch:
If you have to watch one, keep your eye on Diego Forlan, Uruguay's all-world striker who's been dropping back more in build-up play, as Zonal Marking suggests. But if we get four, Uruguay's back four has been tremendous in this tournament, led by captain Diego Lugano.

To Win:
In simple terms? Play South Korea exactly the way it played Mexico in its 1-0 victory. Allow the South Koreans little time on the ball. And, most important, don't allow any free kicks near the goal.

Prediction: Offense meets defense. The game will likely come down to who can score first. If it goes to penalty kicks, it's impossible to predict since both goalies are relatively unknown on the international scene. On paper, Uruguay has a slight advantage. But the team's traditional inconsistency could return to haunt it.

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