The second match of a busy Thursday in the FIFA World Cup sees Group H getting underway and it does so with the dark horses for the tournament Uruguay going up against a South Korea team who always have to be respected.
South Korea have been frequent attendees at the World Cup since they co-hosted it 20 years ago while Uruguay were the inaugural winners of the tournament and some feel they have the personnel to go close to a third title over the next month.
Where to watch
The match will be shown live and in full on BBC 1 for those who are in the UK. There is only a short build-up to this one which begins at 12.45pm ahead of a 1pm kick off.
Whenever a South American side appears at a World Cup they are always taken seriously such is the quality of football in that part of the world but you feel that Uruguay get a little extra billing because it was only 12 years ago that they went all the way to the semi-final of the tournament in the glory days of the likes of Diego Forlan, Luis Suarez and Diego Godin among others who were all in their prime back then. The class of 2022 are billed to make a big impression on the tournament too.
There are two reasons for that. The first is that there is an exciting crop of new blood coming through for Uruguay in the likes of Darwin Nunez, Rodrigo Bentancur and Federico Valverde among others. They complement the older players in the squad nicely. The other reason for the optimism behind them is that only Brazil and Argentina finished above them in qualifying. If they get off to a good start here they can certainly be a force to be reckoned with.
Whenever South Korea turn up to a World Cup the mind always goes back to 2002 when they made it to the last four on home soil. They haven’t been able to emulate that run since then despite some household names coming through and being in their squad but generally they are usually the best of the Asian sides whenever they turn up to a World Cup. They have landed in a tough group so they have their work cut out if they are going to reach the knockout stage for the first time since 2010.
South Korea reminded the world of what they can do when they came up with the win which sealed the fate of Germany four years ago but they could only finish second to Iran in qualifying. The thing which stands out most about that qualifying campaign is that they only scored 13 goals in 10 matches and against a couple of defensively proficient sides in this group the test will be to find a way to find the net more often.
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It looks like Liverpool striker Darwin Nunez is going to get the nod up top alongside Luis Suarez for this match with Edinson Cavani on the bench. Ronald Araujo could miss out though which might mean Martin Cacares filling in at right-back.
The big news for South Korea is that their talisman Son Heung-min is available to play as he is going to wear a protective mask to support the eye socket he recently had surgery on. South Korea have no new injury problems.
I’m sure South Korea will give a good account of themselves in this match but I think this one is all about Uruguay. They are always defensively sound but this Uruguay outfit looks to have the quality in the middle of the park and a real potent threat up top, especially in the physicality which they provide which could be key against a team who don’t tend to be as physical as some nations in world football these days.
South Korea will draw inspiration from fellow Asian teams in Saudi Arabia and Japan and what they have already done at this tournament but they both took advantage of opponents who outplayed them for 45 minutes and weren’t clinical. I don’t see Uruguay being like that here and with progressive options to come on and maintain the quality in their side when players get tired I expect Uruguay to open their campaign with a win.
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