Uruguay were the very last team to have qualified for the 2010 World Cup finals, but so far under coach Oscar Tabarez they have looked one of the most organised teams in the competition. After a goalless draw with France, they beat hosts South Africa 3-0, and Mexico 1-0 to have reached the pre-quarterfinals without conceding a goal.
The backbone of the current Uruguay team are the four Diegos - Diego Godin (3) and captain Diego Lugano (2) in central defence, Diego Perez (15) in midfield and Diego Forlan (10) up front. The mercurial Godin of Villarreal of Spain has emerged as one of the best defenders on show in South Africa. He was rested for the final group game against Mexico but is expected to return for the Korea match. Lugano of Fenerbahce of Turkey is also a splendid defender. They will probably be assisted in defence by the Portuguese based pair of Maxi Perreira (16) of Benfica and Jorge Fucile (4) of Porto. Mauricio Victorino (6) of Universidad de Chile may also play. Behind them Fernando Muslera (1) of Lazio is a young but experienced and skilful goalkeeper.
In midfield Perez of Monaco sits right in front of the defence and controls the game from there. Alongside him Egidio Arevalo (17) of home based Penarol has also been having a great campaign, solid in defence and fluent in counter-attack. Alvaro Pereira (11) of Porto takes up the role of an attacking midfielder. He scored one goal against the hosts.
In attack, Uruguay have two world class strikers in Forlan of Atletico Madrid and Luis Suarez (9) of Ajax Amsterdam. Between them they scored over 70 goals during the 2009-10 European season! Forlan scored twice against South Africa, while Suarez got the winner against Mexico. Edinson Cavani (7) of Palermo of Italy will probably assist them.
The South Koreans will obviously be up against it when they take on this clinical Uruguayan team, but they themselves are having a fairly good campaign. They started with a bang, defeating Greece, another well-organised team, 2-0 in their opener. A comprehensive defeat by Argentina ensued, but the Koreans recovered in time to hold powerful Nigeria 2-2 and qualify.
The Koreans have a good young keeper in Jung Sung Ryong (18), who has performed adequately so far. In defence Lee Young Pyo (12) and Cha Du Ri (22) are both veterans from the 2002 team that stunned the world and finished 4th. Both are solid in defence and ever willing to overlap. The central defenders Cho Yong Hyung (4) Lee Jung Soo (14) are dependable. Lee Jung Soo is also a scorer – he has already scored 2 goals against Greece and Nigeria. He is one of the few defenders to have scored in this year’s Cup, which is extremely creditable.
The captain Park Ji Sung (7) of Manchester United is the midfield dynamo for Korea. He scored one goal against Greece. He will be assisted by Kim Jung Woo (8) and the two 21-year-olds Ki Sung Yong (16) of Celtic and Lee Chung Yong (17) of Bolton. Lee Chung Yong scored the only goal against Argentina. The veteran Kim Nam Il (5) appeared in all three group matches as substitute, and he may well be called up against Uruguay.
Up front Korea have a superb striker in Park Chu Yong (10) of Monaco. He scored from a free-kick against Nigeria. Another veteran Ahn Jung Hwan (9) is yet to play in these finals, but he might be recalled for this game, especially as he is known to be a big-match player.
All in all, Uruguay v South Korea promises to be an exciting encounter. Though Uruguay start as favourites, the Koreans are sure to make things difficult for them with their industry and their commitment.