JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- South Korea crashed out of the 2010 World Cup on Saturday after losing its second round match 2-1 to Uruguay at a very wet Port Elizabeth Stadium in South Africa.
The Koreans pushed the two-time world champions every step of the way. In the end however, two goals, one early in the game and one late, from Uruguay star striker Luis Suarez won the game for the Celeste who now take its place in the last eight. A second half header from Lee Chung-yong left the outcome in doubt until the latter stages but the South Americans held on for a very narrow win.
|Uruguay's Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring against South Korea at the knockout match of the World Cup on Saturday in South Africa. (Yonhap News)|
|Lee Chung-yong (left) celebrates after heading home an equalizer from close range. (Yonhap News)|
|Cha Du-ri covers his tears after Korea was defeated by Uruguay 1:2 at the knockout match held in South Africa Saturday. (Yonhap News)|
It was another battling performance from a Korean team that reached the knockout stage for the first time at an overseas World Cup.
Huh Jung-moo's men almost took the lead in the fifth minute. Park Chu-young scored the all-important second goal against Nigeria with a free-kick and very nearly did the same here. This time though, the swerving ball hit the outside of Uruguays left-hand post.
Just three minutes later however the South Americans took the lead in the softest of circumstances. Deigo Forlans cross from the left was allowed to bounce across the face of the Korean goal by a statuesque line of defenders. Goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryung came out but didnt get there and the unmarked Suarez, highly regarded around the world, was waiting at the far post to convert the easiest of chances.
The setback rocked the Taeguk Warriors and Uruguay, whose defense had not been breached at all in the group stage, were content to sit back and protect their lead while constantly looking for gaps to attack.
As the half progressed, the Koreans started to get a foothold in the game but too often, good approach work was ruined by the final pass that rarely found its target. At half-time, there was much for coach Huh Jung-moo to contemplate, not least just how much longer he was going to persist with the 4-2-3-1 formation.
The formation stayed the same after the restart but Korea started to push Uruguay back. Five minutes into the second half, the ball bounced to Park Chu-young in the area and from just ten meters out, the Monaco marksman blasted the ball over the bar when he actually had the time to steady himself.
Korea continued to attack and was managing to build some momentum. Park had another shot blocked in the area and soon after the Uruguay goalkeeper saved a header from Park Ji-sung. Just before the midway point of the second half, coach Huh switched the system and introduced a second striker. Lee Dong-gook.
It soon paid dividends as Korea became the first team to score against Uruguay. A free-kick from the left was only half cleared by the defense and Lee Chung-yong headed home from close range.
Just minutes later Lee really should have put his team in front. Park Ji-sung broke down the middle and his short pass freed his fellow English Premier star Lee inside the area but the Bolton man shot straight at the goalkeeper.
The goal shook the two-time world champion into life in an attacking sense and suddenly the game was an open one. Suarez was left in lots of space in the area but his header was a weak one.
He made amends with 12 minutes remaining as the rain pelted down. A Uruguay corner wasnt cleared and the ball fell to the Ajax Amsterdam striker on the right side of the box. Suarez took a step to the right past two Korean defenders and curled a delightful shot around the diving goalkeeper Jung and into the far corner of the net.
There was still time for Korea to threaten again. With three minutes remaining, Lee Dong-gook was free inside the area but his shot was half-saved by the goalkeeper and half-prevented from crossing the line by the soaked surface.
Soon after the final whistle sounded to bring tears to the faces of some Korean players that were visible even amid the downpour. Overall however, South Korea can be proud of its exploits in South Africa and the team has earned respect around the world.
By John Duerden
The Korea Herald Correspondent