Saturday, 26 June 2010

Uruguay v South Korea

Uruguay 2 Suarez 8, 80
South Korea 1 Lee Chung-Yong 68

It might have gone very differently, Park Chu-Young hitting the post from a free kick five minutes in, but then Forlan put in a cross, the goalkeeper dived for it but missed it, the defence switched off because they thought he had it covered, and the less trusting Suarez followed it in and hit it into an empty net from a tight angle.

He correctly calculated that the keeper would be able to get back and block if he took the time for a controlling touch, so he just hit it first time, at precisely the right angle. It's the kind of thing that doesn't look hard, but if you try and do it yourself you'll make it maybe one time in twenty. Those moments, that's why they get the big bucks. Oh, and capitalism, that's the other reason.

The Koreans put some nice stuff together, but they kept undercutting their own efforts by poor ball control, or dallying on the ball for the extra second it took for Uruguay to close them down. Just before the break they were lucky not to give away a penalty when Suarez's shot in the box was blocked by Ki Sung-Yeung's arm. It hit him hard enough, so you could argue there was no intent, but you could also argue that if you don't want to give away a penalty you should keep your arms down, instead of cocking one of them like you've had a stroke in the middle of the funky chicken.

Korea dominated at the beginning of the second half, but you never felt they were going to score until suddenly they did. It's like that sometimes. It took the kind of goalkeeping error which tells on a keeper far more than a fumble.

The free kick came in, it bounced up high off a Uruguayan head, and Muslera dithered for a crucial second, then came for it. If he'd got there quicker and punched it clear, it would have fine. If he'd stayed on his line and left it to his defence, that would have been fine too. What he actually did was to get three quarters of the way there and flap at it ineffectually, letting Lee Chung-Yong head it home.

He hung his head in shame, but twelve minutes later Suarez spared his blushes. He stayed wide left on a corner, waited for it to come across, dinked it right and hit it round the defense and in off the post.

The Uruguayans gathered in a big happy mob, behind the press photographers. They didn't seem to mind the pelting rain, although it must have been cold. You felt that it was weighing rather more heavily on the Koreans, though.

They had one last chance to equalise, when Lee Dong-Gook got the ball unmarked in the box, but his shot was straight at the keeper. Muslera actually managed to fluff it, the ball squirming underneath and past him, but it was moving slowly and the defence was able to clear.

Almost before you were ready, that was that. South America marches on, whilst Asia is now represented only by Japan. Uruguay conceded their first goal of the competition, but they now get a quarter final against Ghana or the USA. One of those teams gets a semi-final, giving them a seven game World Cup. If it's Uruguay, Suarez becomes a good bet for highest goalscorer.

Incidentally, this is our goodbye to Korean names. I've made some effort to get them right during the tournament, and I've resisted the urge to make questionable puns, even in the case of Hung Yung-Jo. Could Oh Beom-Seok tempt me? He could not. Instead, here are some facts.

The principles of naming were laid down in the Korean Naming Laws of 1812, but since then Japanese, Chinese and Western influences have made things much more complicated. In essence, the name contains three one syllable words. The first is a family name, similar to the African clan name, the second and third is the given name. In many cases, the given name includes a syllable for the generation, so brothers and sisters will have the same first two names.

You are still legally required to choose given names from a set list of options, although modern practice is undermining this. There are a mere 250 family names, and 5,000 given names to choose from. The five most common family names are used by over half the population.

Goodbye to both Koreas, anyway. You sense unification would make them a real force in world football. Although come to that it wouldn't hurt here either.

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