Al Rayyan (Qatar): Uruguay faltered in their World Cup opener against a lively and energetic South Korea after drawing 0-0 on Thursday’s show.
Clear chances were rare for either side in Group H’s tie at Education City Stadium and although Uruguay had more chances, neither team managed to get a shot on target.
Uruguay captain Diego Godin was denied by the woodwork, while South Korea striker Hwang Ui-jo shot over the bar with a goal and both sides regretted missed chances.
There were only a few hundred South Korean fans in attendance, but they made enough noise to drown out Al Rayyan and sang throughout the competition, the beat of their drums matching the fast and frenetic pace of the game.
“We are a very brave team, we are not afraid of our opponents,” South Korea coach Paulo Bento told reporters.
“The bottom line is that we have to control all moments of the game knowing we are playing in a different competition than our qualifiers. But that won’t stop us from what we plan to do. And we showed today that we can do it.”
Uruguay’s first shot on target came in the 19th minute through Federico Valverde, who caught Jose Maria Gimenez’s pass and was touched before firing a half-volley on target, but his ambitious attempt went just over the bar.
The South Americans were beginning to gain a foothold when South Korea, who had been patiently in control of the first half, disrupted their rhythm and counterattacked from a Uruguay corner before the half-hour.
Son Heung-min took the ball down the left and sliced inside, leaping past two Uruguayan defenders before curling in on goal with his right foot, but left-back Mathias Olivera was able to clear it.
South Korea should have taken the lead in the 34th minute when Moon-hwan Kim hissed the ball into the box and down Hwang’s run in front of goal, but the striker couldn’t keep his composure and sent it over the bar.
Hwang’s team-mates fell to their knees after his miss and almost had to pay just before the break when centre-back Godin stood highest to force a header from Valverde’s corner, but it bounced off the left post and off target.
Gimenez made a crucial tackle to thwart Son five minutes after the restart after a flowing South Korea move, while Jung Woo-young blocked a powerful shot from midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur at the other end.
Uruguay saw more of the ball and looked dangerous throughout the game but found few chances to break through an organized Korean defence. Striker Darwin Nunez was a threat on the break with his pace but endured a frustrating afternoon.
Uruguay coach Diego Alonso traded strongman for strongman when he replaced Luis Suarez with Edinson Cavani after 64 minutes and the striker was lively, almost connected to a Nunez shot that went wide.
Valverde unleashed a bolt that hit the top of the post in the final minute of regular time and Son had one last chance in the closing stages but missed his shot.