Uruguay eliminated as South Korea benefit from late World Cup drama

World Cup: Uruguay eliminated by late South Korea goal
Luis Suárez. Photo: FIFA/Twitter

Despite a 2-0 win over Ghana in their final 2022 World Cup Group H match, Uruguay missed out on a place in the last 16 by just two goals, after South Korea pulled off a surprise win over Portugal to seal their qualification at Uruguay’s expense. Two strikes from Flamengo’s attacking midfielder Giorgian de Arrascaeta gave the Celeste the win on the day, but errors earlier in the group phase cost them dearly.

Before today, Uruguay had racked up just one point and had not scored a single goal. A win over Ghana gave them a huge chance of qualifying — if group winners Portugal avoided defeat against South Korea. Victory against the Ghanaians was by no means a given, however, as the two countries have World Cup previous.

While Uruguay and Ghana had only faced each other once in any competition before today, the circumstances of their last meeting made this Group H decider a particularly spicy affair.

In the 2010 World Cup, Ghana played Uruguay in the quarter-finals, hoping to become the first African team ever to reach the tournament’s final four. With the match tied at 1-1 in the last minute of extra time, Ghana’s Dominic Adiyiah sent a header goalwards, illegally blocked on the line by Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez, who used his hand.

Suárez was sent off, but Ghana talisman Asamoah Gyan missed the resulting penalty kick, sending the tie to a shootout — which Uruguay won.

Asked about the incident in the runup to today’s match, Suárez was flippant and refused to apologize, saying he “wasn’t the one who missed the penalty.”

Twelve years on, Suárez started today’s match up front alongside Liverpool’s Darwin Núñez. Flamengo’s Giorgian de Arrascaeta was brought in as an attacking midfielder cutting inside from the left, with Facundo Pellistri on the opposite flank.

The first half was not short on drama, and Ghana sought to exorcize their 2010 ghouls after winning a penalty kick on 21 minutes. History repeated itself, however, and André Ayew’s spot-kick was saved.

The African side were left rattled, and Uruguay took the lead five minutes later when Arrascaeta bundled the ball over the line after Suárez saw a shot saved.

Uruguay doubled their lead on 32 minutes, and it was Arrascaeta again, scoring a neat half volley at the far post.

The two-goal lead was anything but secure, however, as South Korea were holding Portugal to a 1-1 draw in the group’s other match. A second goal for South Korea would have seen them qualify at Uruguay’s expense.

However, with the other game level, Uruguay were happy to play defense, allowing Ghana most of the possession. And the African side created chances, Antoine Semenyo hooked a good opportunity wide of the Uruguay goal, and Ajax midfielder Mohammed Kudus had his wicked shot tipped onto the post by goalkeeper Sergio Rochet.

Desperation struck with five minutes left, as news of a South Korean winner pushed Uruguay out of the two qualifying spots. Level on goal difference, Uruguay had scored two fewer goals than their Asian rivals, enough to put them out.

What ensued were 15 minutes of frantic football, with Uruguay needing a single goal to qualify — and Ghana needing two.

Uruguay had a strong shout for a penalty in stoppage time, as Edinson Cavani came together with Alidu Seidu in the box and claimed a foul. German referee Daniel Siebert, however, was having none of it.