Uruguay 2-1 South Korea: controlling the tempo and more clinical finishing sees Uruguay through

June 26, 2010

The starting line-ups

Uruguay progress, but got away with sitting back for half the game. Korea took too long to get going, although were probably on top for much of the second half.

Uruguay maintained their rough shape from their win over Mexico. Diego Godin returned at the expense of Mauricio Victorino. South Korea also made one change – Kim Jae-Sung played ahead of Yeom Ki-Hun, and played an advanced midfield role.

Firstly, there was a different tilt to the Uruguay attacking trident. Diego Forlan played slightly higher up the pitch, with Edinson Cavani deeper on the right-hand side. He sometimes switched flanks, which left Uruguay very lopsided, although this did allow Suarez to make runs down the right-hand side – a position from which he opened the scoring.

Uruguay dominated the midfield battle, because South Korea’s two central midfielders were sitting too deep. They were overly concerned with marshalling Forlan, and rather conceded the midfield ground to Uruguay’s two central midfielders. Egidio Arevalo-Rios and Diego Perez played very solid roles and played simple balls forward and into wide areas. Alvaro Pereira played as a carrilero, starting in a central position before moving into a wide-left role. That made the formation 4-2-4 when he got forward, and it could also shift to 3-4-3 when Maxi Pereira motored down the right, allowing Cavani to move more central.

South Korea started awfully; their passing was too long and direct. They wanted to play a high-tempo game, but Uruguay were dominating possession and so the match was played to their slow, methodical preference. Korea were in a difficult situation – they wanted the game to be more frantic, but by knocking long balls forward to Park Chu-Young, who didn’t get enough support, they were handing the ball back to Uruguay immediately. Korea also deployed their full-backs in quite a conservative fashion early on, which was frustrating considering Cha Du-Ri was often in acres of pace on the right, with Suarez not tracking back.

Uruguay go 1-0 up, then sit back

Uruguay went ahead through Suarez’s angled shot at the far post – thanks mainly to some awful Korean defending and goalkeeping. But after that, the South Americans sought to sit back and soak up pressure, when their early attacking strategy seemed to have been causing Korea plenty of problems. Both Pereiras were suddenly much more conservative, Cavani dropped deeper and deeper, and they left Suarez and Forlan upfront with little support.

Korea grew into the game, and after half-time they really started to dominate. Their passing was more patient and they spread the ball across the pitch with more sophistication than the rushed long ball game of the first half. There were three key factors here – firstly, the full-backs were given much more license to get forward; Cha provided overlaps on the right, and Lee Young-Pyo brought trickery and dangerous balls into the box from the left. Secondly, Huh Jung-Moo realised he didn’t need to have two holding midfielders doing the same thing when Uruguay’s central midfielders weren’t looking to get forward, and pushed Ki Sung-Yong into a more attacking position. Thirdly, Park Ji-Sung was moved into a central role where he could influence the play  and provide driving runs at the Uruguayan defence.

Those defenders seemed content to stand off challenges when players ran at them, and despite the general success of defending deep so far at this tournament, it didn’t seem to suit Uruguay. In particular, it looked less convincing because they were generally only defending with seven players. Cavani, Suarez and Forlan stayed up the pitch, and Korea were able to shift the three midfielders laterally, and create space for balls into the box. When Tabarez realised this problem, he moved Cavani even deeper – to a position he was uncomfortable in, and he was lucky not to give away a penalty ith a rash tackle. Park Chu-Young was doing an excellent job upfront, and was joined by Lee Dong-Gook to provide another central threat.

Korea equalise, but Uruguay step it up again

They got a goal back with a goal from a set-piece – their main source of goals throughout the tournament – and had some other very good chances that weren’t taken. But Uruguay seemed able to step up their game to get a second goal when it was needed – and it arrived from a stunning strike from Suarez following a corner. Suarez was actually very wasteful when in possession throughout the game, but his finishing for both goals was lethal.

Uruguay again dropped deep and tried to close the game out – although this time Oscar Tabarez had the good sense to remove one of his forwards, Suarez, and put on Alvaro Fernandez, and defended with two clear banks of four. Still they conceded chances to Korea – Park Ji-Sung’ss superb through ball to Lee Dong-Gook was met with a tame finish – and Uruguay’s defending as a whole was surprisingly poor considering they hadn’t conceded a goal until this match.


Korea have provided some excitement in the tournament so far, but were found out today. They had opportunities but didn’t take them, and defended poorly for both Suarez goals.

Uruguay were always able to control the game, and play to the tempo they wished. The only question is why they didn’t control it in a more positive fashion when 1-0 up, and instead sat back and expected to get to the end of the match with the clean sheet intact. Their system seems to work quite well, but playing with three such attack-minded players and sitting deep doesn’t appear to be a tactic that maximises their strengths.

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