When South Korea shocked the world by reaching the semi-finals back in ’02, many put their feat down to home advantage and the skillful management of Guus Hiddink. However, these are luxuries that the Asian side can no longer rely on in their quest to prove that they are a force to be reckoned with – thousands of miles from home with the relatively unknown Huh Jung-Moo at the helm.
Standing in their way are the impressive Uruguayan’s, part of the resurgence of South American football. Oscar Tabarez’s side comfortably qualified from Group A following victories over Mexico and South Africa, showing a classy, stylish tempo of football in the process. Comparitively, the Korean’s also impressed throughout the group phase. Despite a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Argentina, a draw with Nigeria and a victory over Greece proved enough to take them through.
Huh is likely to start with the same side that held off a resurgent Nigeria, with no clear injury worries. Lee Jung-Soo will provide threat from set-pieces, whilst Park Ji-Sung and Park Chu-Young with add attacking flair to South Korea’s tentative all-round style of play. Ji-Sung told football.fanhouse.co.uk, ‘Getting through the group phase was the minimum for us and it’s nice to write a new chapter in our football history. But now we’ve achieved that we want to go further. We’ll focus on every game and treat it like a final.”
Uruguay however are full of confidence, and are unbeaten in five previous meetings with South Korea. Hitman Diego Forlan has managed to shake off a troublesome foot injury, so no changes are expected. Tabarez said, ‘We’re trying to accomplish the aims we set ourselves before the tournament but we’ve not achieved them just yet. Even so, we know we’re a difficult opponent for anybody. People seem to be getting behind us back home and that’s good news for the players, it gives them a real boost to know that.’
For South Korea to progress, much relies on their ability to cope with Luis Suarez. The Ajax hitman has pace and trickery in abundance, and when given one chance – as seen against Mexico – will put it away.
Overall, the benchmark has been set for a classic ‘stylish-South-Americans-versus-stern-Asians’ encounter. Uruguay seem to have the upper hand, and I think that they will prevail in extra time.
Prediction: Uruguay 2-1 South Korea (A.E.T)