At times, the football on display at a drenched Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium was sloppy and lacked control, as expected on a soaked surface. But one moment of absolute genius proved to be enough to put two-time winners Uruguay into a very winnable quarter-final against Ghana; and that moment came from Ajax hotshot Luis Suarez.
Korean coach Huh Jung-Moo selected the side that was expected to be announced, continuing with the formidable attacking partnership of Park Ji-Sung, Park Chu-Young, and Lee Chung-Yong. Oscar Tabarez also named his expected starting XI, and with forward pairing Suarez and Diego Forlan the Korean defence was always going to be in trouble.
However, they certainly didn’t expect to be behind just eight minutes into the match. Despite some effervescent attacking play, their flaky defence was exposed as Forlan was given time and space to beat his man and get to the byline. The Atletico Madrid striker drilled the ball across the face of goal, and with ‘keeper Jung Sung-Ryong inexplicably allowing the ball to travel past him, Suarez was on hand to roll home from an acute angle.
Despite this early breakthrough, it appeared as though the Koreans were more likely to equalise and go on to prevail. Monaco striker Chu-Young was looking to add to his tally, seeing first a 25-yard effort fizzle wide and then firing a hal-volley over from close range. And South Korea’s constant ‘knocking-of-the-door’ finally pain off in the 68th minute, as Chung-Yong nodded home after Victorino’s poorly attempted clearance.
With the rain now teeming down, it appeared as though it would be a mistake that would win the game for either side; Suarez dispelled this belief spectacularly however. The potent Ajax frontman picked up the ball on the edge of the area, where it looked likely that he would float in a cross. However, he expertly turned Lee Jung-Soo inside out before curling home from the edge of the box, leaving Sung-Ryong helpless.
Korea had chances to take the game into extra-time however, notably substitute Dong-Gook’s tame effort which was cleared comfortably. Despite a late wave of possession and penalty-area bombardment, Uruguay held out to seal a quarter-final place. South Korea’s dream was over – but they certainly proved that ’02 was no fluke.