Another goalless game had Danny Murphy thinking outside the box despite FIFA rules meaning it must be a point apiece for South Korea and in-vogue World Cup dark horses Uruguay.
This was the fourth 0-0 draw in 14 games – there was one in the entire tournament four years ago – and it’s not particularly hard to fathom what might be causing the number of cagey stalemates in an unprecedented mid-season winter World Cup.
A cagey first half followed the increasingly established blueprint for this tournament, with the more energetic and better organised team able to fairly straightforwardly hold off the supposedly superior and more experienced team.
There was one big chance for each side in that opening period, the undoubted highlight of which was Diego Godin thumping a header against a post and causing BBC co-commentator Danny Murphy to have an existential crisis about why shots that hit the post aren’t counted as being on target for the pedantically technical reason of not being on target.
This was merely the high point of an eccentric co-commentary performance from Murphy, who spent much of the game expressing surprise that South Korea were organised and competent rather than rolling over to have their tummies tickled by the more fancied Uruguayans.
“They’re still in the game,” he said in head-shaking disbelief after a goalless opening half-hour in which Korea had in fact had more possession than Uruguay and looked at least as likely to open the scoring, which was admittedly still ‘not very’.
With the second half offering no succour for Murphy in terms either of Korean capitulation, goalmouth action or an answer to his imponderable “is the post on target?” dilemma, he moved on instead to bemoaning the lack of laces on modern football boots.
It was a bravura old man yelling at clouds performance from the erstwhile Liverpool and Tottenham midfielder and one frankly we’re grateful for because the match was not the most entertaining or interesting of the opening week of this tournament and we’ve managed to eke out quite a few words on the co-commentator’s nonsense.
It’s interesting to us that there still remains such a wide range of effort among pundits. You see your Ian Wrights and your Alan Shearers who have made concerted efforts to work at and improve – with fine results in both cases – and yet still there are those like Murphy whose effort seemingly didn’t even amount to a cursory glance at the last meeting between these two teams. It’s probably just as well; discovering South Korea had won would surely have blown his entire mind long before the post quandary reared its ugly head.
You’d think he’d have been more interested in this one because his former clubs were well represented. Luis Suarez and Darwin Nunez were up front for Uruguay but made little impression. Darwin at least brought his usual all-action chaos to proceedings but his final touch whether pass or shot or cross was never quite right. That’s part of the package with Darwin, of course, and he grew visibly frustrated late on when a shot spun wide and a pretty simple pass to play in Rodrigo Bentancur went awry.
Uruguay looked more threatening when Suarez made way for Edinson Cavani but given the names on show it’s fair to say Murphy wouldn’t be the only one surprised at the relative ease with which South Korea eased through the game.
At the other end, Son Heung-min was there for the full 90 minutes in a great big mask that presumably enraged Matt Le Tissier while also being the one cast-iron prediction that could have been made about this World Cup at any point in the last few weeks. It’s hard to know precisely what level of injury it would have taken for Son not to be involved, but we’re probably looking at up to and including amputation.
He was, perhaps inevitably, short of his very best due both to match sharpness issues and one suspects the sheer awkwardness of what was one of the larger masks we’ve seen a footballer wear.
His fellow Tottenham star Bentancur was arguably Uruguay’s best player and, as has been the case at Spurs recently, both he and his team looked far more threatening when he was released from the purely defensive midfield role he occupied for much of the first half.
It has to be the way for Uruguay moving forward in this group and tournament. He’s too good a player to shackle in a team that needs all the creativity it can muster. Exactly like at Spurs, in fact.
Late chances came and went. Son – whose two goals at the 2018 World Cup both came in stoppage time in an era before that was about a quarter of the match – dragged wearily wide and the increasingly significant Federico Valverde thundered a long-range effort against the outside of the post to at least give Uruguay a 2-0 lead under Murphy’s Law.
But under boring old FIFA laws it’s a goalless draw and a point apiece that gets both teams up and running but leaves neither with much margin for error in a group that promises wafer-thin margins.