Following dramatic triumphs over Argentina and Germany in the previous two days by fellow Asian contenders Saudi Arabia and Japan, South Korea failed to make it three in a row for the continent as they opened their 2022 FIFA World Cup campaign with a 0-0 draw against Uruguay on Thursday.
Uruguay and South Korea draw their World Cup opener
South Korea’s greatest opportunity came in the first half of a tightly contested match at Education City Stadium, when Hwang Ui-jo flew wildly over from a promising position following a well-worked move down the right. Despite this, Uruguay came the closest to breaking the tie, but the woodwork came to South Korea’s rescue twice, denying Diego Godin and Federico Valverde and leaving both teams with a share of the spoils. Given how difficult Group H is shaping up to be, with Portugal and Ghana rounding out the group, a point from the first match is far from ideal – but it is also far from a crushing blow.
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South Korea coach Paulo Bento saw plenty of positives.
Above all, talismanic captain Son Heung-min was not only fit to start the match but also looked active throughout and was fit enough to play the whole 90 minutes despite sustaining a facial fracture at the outset of the month. While he was earlier observed continuously adjusting his protective mask in training sessions leading up to Thursday, the Tottenham midfielder appeared unconcerned by the face protection as he consistently attempted to create chances in the final third against Uruguay.
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Furthermore, Bento’s midfield trio of Jung Woo-young, Hwang In-beom, and Lee Jae-sung performed admirably. Hwang and Lee were able to aid the attackers to deliver the initial line of pressure on the opponent high up the field, while also seeking to provide drive forward whenever the South Koreans got the ball, with Jung sitting right in front of the defense and performing much of the dirty work.
While Uruguay won the final possession count 56% to 44%, South Korea dominated the first hour and made it difficult for their opponents to develop any genuine fluency.
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