Motty would never have done it. “Uruguay are the only team at this World cup yet to concede a goal,” declares a confident Jon Champion. I don’t know what the Portuguese for “oi, hang on a minute” is, but a lot of people are shouting it at the telly right now. Gareth Southgate has already told us that South Korea have entered what used to be exclusively African teams’ territory: “They were naïve defensively,” he says, adding “they gave away goals, naively,” just in case we’d missed it the first time. South Korea’s back four have nearly 250 caps between them and their average age is 30. Southgate is confusing naïve with “s***e”, as Uruguay’s opener partly confirms.
Lee Young-Pyo, who was a Tottenham defender for a while so has an excuse for naivety, stands idly by as Luis Suarez nips in at the back post to nearly miss from six yards. It’s the goalkeeper’s fault for allowing Diego Forlan’s cross through his hands (and two weeks ago, they’d have been asking “was it the ball?”). But he gets away with it, until co-commentator Craig Burley sees the 19th replay, about 15 minutes later. “It’s goodnight and God bless,” intones Burley, keeping up the pundits’ habit of puzzling non sequiturs. Even Martin Keown might have said: “eh?” to that one. Suarez looks about a stone heavier than in the group stages but he’s playing about a stone sharper. Egidio Arevalo Rios shoots into the stratosphere and you suspect “holding midfielder’s shot” might join football’s lexicon alongside “forward’s tackle.” But he and Diego Perez are at their “destructive” best/worst, always not quite fouling.
Uruguay should have a penalty before the break when Alvaro Periera has a shot charged down by Ki Sung-Yeung as if it were a drop goal attempt at Ellis Park. Champion talks of “no material effect” and “un-natural position” as if they were key phrases in football’s handball law. But old time football fans would have been screaming “he’s had the laces out twice!!” At half-time, Andy Townsend suggests that Ki Sung-Yeung had been a “coward” and should have looked at Uruguay captain Diego Lugano as he defended a shot coming towards him: “Look at that, hands behind his back, doesn’t mind taking one in the face,” Townsend trumpets, over a replay of Lugano ducking out of the way of the shot.
Ray Winstone’s imaginary friend at Bet365 advises that Uruguay to win 2-1 might be worth a punt. But the studio pundits can’t see Uruguay letting one in and have written South Korea off. To be fair, they may have been right. But Uruguay decide to line up 7-0-3 in the second half, and with Forlan quietly having a shocker, this chucks the initiative into the Koreans’ laps. They bring on Lee Dong-Gook who, Champion suggests, “Gareth Southgate may remember, played 23 times for Middlesbrough, and scored no goals.” If Southgate does remember, he’ll know that this is plain wrong – and I don’t know the Mansfield equivalent of “oi, hang on a minute” is, but a lot of them are shouting it at the telly right now, because he definitely scored against them. (Champion corrects himself later, admitting that Dong-Gook “scored a couple in cups.” We know, Jon).
But it’s “Lee Chung-Yong of Bolton” who gets the equaliser that a spell of Korean pressure had suggested. If Sung-Yeung ha been a “coward” with his handball, the Uruguay defender who turned his back on Chung-Yong-of-Bolton is a real conchie…hey, its Andy Townsend’s mate Diego Lugano. Well…well. The goalie, Fernando Muslera, who looks about twelve years old with his hair matted by the rain which has fallen heavily throughout the second half, is also wildly unadjacent to the action. It’s the same end where Uruguay scored, of course. And Burley suggests that “there must be something in that six-yard box turning the goalkeepers loopy.” It’s the end where the penalty shoot-out will take place, suggesting it could be a long night, if the scores stay level.
Three minutes later, though, South Korea should be ahead, but Lee Chung-Yeung shoots weakly at the keeper – he isn’t Lee Chung-Yeung “of Bolton” this time. The flawed wisdom of Uruguay’s temporary 7-0-3 formation is exposed as they quickly retake the initiative. Suarez should score again when he beat the Korean’s L-shaped offside trap. But he soon does, curling and looping one in from the edge of the box to suggest that he, at least, has got very used to the Jabulani match-ball – although Burley, the tournament’s Mr Grumpy-Pundit now Mick McCarthy’s gone home, blames “poor defending.” There’s time for Lee Dong-Gook to really bring the memories flooding back to his Boro’ manager Southgate as he scuffs one at the keeper from ten yards. Muslera does his best to squirm it over the line – he must be paid by the hour if he wants to stay out in that rain for extra-time – but the shot isn’t hard enough and brave boy Lugano is there to clear it. It finishes 2-1, and Ray Winstone’s imaginary friend was right… for the first time, to my knowledge.
Champion’s rehearsed closing speech: “celestial skies” (Uruguay are nicknamed La Celeste), “sky blue heaven” (they’re in sky blue shirts), is awful in the extreme – it must have been written by the same prankster responsible for his factually flawed fact sheet. The unrehearsed bit, suggesting that South Korea’s semi-final appearance was “maybe a fluke” is ungracious in the extreme – they have contributed to a decent game and were worthy qualifiers for this stage. Noting that Uruguay are now semi-final possibles, Southgate adds that England would have been quarter-final possible opponents if they’d won their group, “and I’ve seen nothing in Uruguay that would frighten England.” I don’t know what the Spanish for “oi, hang on a minute” is, but…
Thanks once again go to Historical Football Kits for the use of their graphics.