PORT ELIZABETH, June 25 (Reuters) - Uruguay and South Korea
will get the World Cup knockout stages underway on Saturday in a
match where both sides will be determined to make their mark
after decades of mediocrity in the tournament.
No one is tipping Group A winners Uruguay or Group B
runners-up South Korea to get anywhere near the final but their
early form has come as a surprise to many teams who could easily
have seen them as first-round fodder.
A place in the quarter-finals would mark a stunning
turnaround in the World Cup fortunes for either side.
While the likes of World Cup winners Brazil, Germany,
Argentina and Italy remain a force in the global game, twice
champions Uruguay are a shadow of their former selves having not
reached the last eight since 1970 when they were semi-finalists.
Like Uruguay, who are appearing in their 11th finals, South
Korea are World Cup regulars but have only advanced from the
group phase once, as hosts in 2002 when they made the semis.
The modest Koreans normally play down their chances and
speak only about the next game but coach Huh Jung-moo said they
were in a hungry mood and looking beyond the second round.
"I know my players will not be satisfied with just reaching
the round of 16 and we will work harder to reach the
semi-finals," said Huh.
"My players will be shooting for higher targets now."
South Korea's performances have matched their bullish
rhetoric, with passing flair, confident breaks and lung-busting
fitness, but six goals conceded in their last two matches are
glaring reminders of their fragility at the back.
In contrast, Uruguay have yet to concede a goal and have to
be the favourites to win in Port Elizabeth on Saturday after
their two wins and a draw earned them top sot in the group for
the first time since the 1950 World Cup which they won.
Uruguay are expected to stick by a winning formation in
which influential striker Diego Forlan has played behind
forwards Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, a fearsome combination
to throw at a so far shaky South Korean defence.
Midfielder Diego Perez said their focus would be to maintain
their insatiable appetite for attack but tighten their defence
against a dangerous and free-flowing Korean side once again
carrying the hopes of the world's most populous continent.
"We are clear that we cannot give away any advantage at all.
We know our limits. We know we are strong in defence and we have
a good attack," Perez told Reuters.
"It has been long time since things have gone this way. We
know we are on a good road," he added. "We must enjoy it."
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