Saturday, 26 June 2010

Suarez Fires Uruguay To The Quarter-Finals

Uruguay 2 South Korea 1, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth

Uruguay's terrific run at this World Cup continued with a hard-fought win over South Korea. The winning goal would have been a fitting conclusion to any game: Luis Suarez curling a wonderful shot from the edge of the box onto the post and into the net.

His celebrations were equally as good to watch, kissing his shirt; jumping ecstatically over the advertising hoardings and running to the warm embrace of his team-mates in the pouring rain in Port Elizabeth. Coach Tabarez joined in, leaping off the bench with a roar of joy, fists pumped and completely oblivious to the downpour.

South Korea put up a determined showing and can count themselves unlucky that they didn't take the game to extra-time. The difference between the two teams was probably the quality of strikers. Uruguay has Suarez and Forlan, two players who are putting in consistent performances and providing the cutting edge that is necessary in any successful team.

Suarez is now the joint leading-scorer in South Africa with 3 goals. He has scored 55 goals in 61 games this season for Ajax and Uruguay. He could be on any number of shopping lists this summer.

Not only did he grab the winner, but also the opening goal in the first half. Forlan was the provider, crossing from the left to his mate who had the simplest task of tapping home. But unfortunately it will have to go down as another goalkeeping clanger with Jung Sung-Ryong caught between staying on his line and coming for the ball. In the end he did neither. Suarez accepted the gift with glee.

Korea came back strongly in the second half, showing great energy and ultimately finding the equaliser. A bit of a scramble in the box led to Lee Chung-Yong heading into the empty net. With the winds in their sails they might have thought this was their day.

But Suarez ultimately made the difference and he could have had a hat-trick. Before his superb second he was left completely unmarked in the box but couldn't get his weak header on target. He more than made up for it five minutes later.

It's La Celeste's best World Cup return since 1970 when they reached the semi-finals. They won't have a better chance to emulate that achievement with Ghana or USA waiting in the quarters.

And before we sign off let's take a quick look at Tabarez' pre-match comments. Sounds like he wants to give Maradona a run for his money in the off-the-wall soundbite stakes:

'There's a saying among coaches that football is like a short blanket: it covers your head or it covers your feet, and if it covers your head, your toes are in the air.'

If it's a saying among coaches then they clearly have their own secret code. Maybe Bielsa or Maradona could shed some light on the blanket issue. Having your toes in the air doesn't sound conducive to playing the beautiful game so maybe he's got a point.

In fact anything in the air is a no-no for wise old Oscar:

'We don't want to build castles in the sky, but we are certainly not going to give up on anything and my players have shown that in each of the matches they have played so far.'

One thing that is clear is that things are warming up nicely back home in Uruguay:

'Apparently, our matches are being watched in schools and in shopping malls, and children and young people are following us back home. There seems to be a link between this team and the people of Uruguay.

Whether that will be enough to progress in the tournament, we will have to see as we play our matches. But Uruguayans have decided that they have reason to party, and we hope that will be the case today.'

Party on Uruguay.

How they lined up: Muslera, Lugano (Captain), Godin (Victorino, 46), Fucile, Pereira, Pereira (Lodeiro, 74), Perez, Arevalo Rios, Cavani, Suarez (Fernandez , 84), Forlan

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