South Korea lined up with Kim in goal and a back four of Kim, Kim, Kim and Kim, but their Group H clash with Uruguay was anything but wild.
We’ve seen some intricate football on show at Qatar 2022 – not at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, though, where both sides looked to have enrolled in the school of long balls. The first half saw 12% of passes played long – and 77.6% completed, the third-lowest success rate of the tournament so far. Uruguay alone launched 12 long balls before the break; this was a tough watch.
The first half was hardly ideal for fans of goalmouth action either: there were just six shots. But with the likes of 2021-22 Premier League Golden Boot winner Son Heung-min (one goal away from becoming his country’s all-time World Cup top scorer with four) and in-form Darwin Núñez on the pitch, it could only get better on that front – couldn’t it…?
Er, no. South Korea’s thoroughly excitable support sang loud and proud throughout, but there was nothing for anyone to truly shout about until the sweet release of referee Clément Turpin’s full-time whistle. The fourth 0-0 of this World Cup wasn’t quite the worst – Uruguay did at least hit the woodwork twice, late in either half – but only Morocco 0-0 Croatia has seen a lower combined expected goals (0.89) than this rather negative affair (1.03) – which finished with a tournament-low one shot on target (every other match has had at least three), the first World Cup game to see just one of them since Denmark played Scotland in 1986.
For Uruguay, this result means they’ve won their opener at just one of their last eight World Cup appearances (although they have still advanced from the group on five of the previous seven occasions). For South Korea, their all-time win ratio at the finals drops from 17.6% to 17.1%: they’ve come out on top in only six of 35 outings.
It was also a significant day for the Education City Stadium, which became the third ground to witness goalless draws in both of its first two World Cup fixtures. There have already been four times as many 0-0s at Qatar 2022 as there were in Russia four years ago.
We came into this game salivating at the prospect of two of the best forwards in the Premier League going head to head but instead the game set a new record for goalless draws in the first round of games at a World Cup. The hit and miss nature of Qatar 2022 continues. On to the next game we go.