It's over. We survived. Now let us never speak of this again.
Uruguay and South Korea began their World Cup campaign by splitting the points in the fourth goalless draw Qatar has seen over its first 14 games.
An absorbing if occasionally low quality first half brought chances for both teams to take hold of the game, Diego Godin going closest when his header cracked against the bottom of the post off Federico Valverde's service. His miss was not the most egregious, however. Hwang Hi-Jo contrived to lift the ball over an open goal after excellent work by Kim Moon-Hwan down the right.
The zip with which both sides approached the first half did not particularly follow them back out of the tunnel after the interval. South Korea began to take control of the contest but could not break down an obdurate Uruguayan defense. Heung-min Son was denied just as he was about to pull the trigger by a diving Jose Maria Gimenez. Substitute Cho Gue-Sung spun and shot wide from outside the box with 10 minutes to go but this was a game that was swiftly tapering towards a share of the points.
Uruguay largely settled for pot shots though Federico Valverde very nearly made the most of one, smacking an effort against the post as the clock ran down. Seven minutes of added time seemed rather more like a curse than a kindness, before the final whistle blew.
Speaking pre-match Uruguay head coach Diego Alonso made great emphasis of how much of a welcome dilemma it was to try to fit his numerous striking options together. Whilst it is a better problem than not having any forwards of repute, it did not seem like the 4-3-3 he deployed put his best talents in their best positions, particularly Darwin Nunez.
Though the young striker has often played on the left for Liverpool, he has not seemed as obliged to track back as he did today, where he spent far too much of the first half. It is not a great sign of how your side is playing if one of the world's most expensive and highly touted strikers ends the game with as many ball recoveries in the defensive third as Diego Godin.
When he was able to attack, particularly on the occasions where Mathias Olivera overlapped on the left, he looked by far Uruguay's most likely route to goal. He might only have taken one shot but it was a tempting one, bending the ball wide from range after being teed up by Edinson Cavani.
One brilliant dart down the left saw him cause chaos down the South Korean backline but the issue is when the cutback came Uruguayans would rather have been hoping it was Nunez receiving it rather than delivering. Instead there were precious few options because Luis Suarez consistently seemed off the pace, failing to register a shot or create a chance for a team mate. That he was invariably too far behind the play was typified in him registering eight touches in his own half and two in the penalty area.
Cavani offered a more physical presence off the bench, but Alonso's plans should really start with getting Nunez in the prime spots to make an impact.
Qatar 2022 is already four times better than Russia 2018 when it comes to producing tedious 0-0 draws, don't rule out South Korea adding one more before this competition is out. That is only a partial criticism because the two banks of four anchored by Napoli's Kim Min-Jae will not be broken down easily… if the opposition can get that far. At the top of the pitch, the frontline pressed with real energy, their 10 possession regains in the final third the most of any side at the World Cup so far.
The issue might be what they do from there on. Hwang's miss stood out as a major error, but the bigger concern for Paulo Bento might be how infrequently they turned those high ball recoveries into real chances. Only in flashes did Son look like the player who terrified Premier League defenses for years on end. That might be down to the facial injury that has forced him to wear a mask at this tournament but it should be noted that he was struggling for consistency at Tottenham even before undergoing surgery on the bones around his eye. If he cannot deliver moments of magic then goals may not come very frequently in the next two games involving South Korea.
It's over. We survived. Now let us never speak of this again.
There's no real movement ahead of him so from 25 yards out Valverde whacks it, his effort thundering against the woodwork. Moments later South Korea nearly pounce on a poor clearance from Rochet. It comes to Son but he drags a left footed shot wide of goal.
Excellent hold up work from Cavani, who then works it left for Nunez. The Liverpool man steps inside and tries to bend it into the far corner but it's nearer to being a cross than a shot.
They're not great ones but substitute Cho Gue-Sung spins and swivels outside the box. This game certainly looks more there for the team in red than it does the Uruguayans, who are holding on somewhat here.
There's a reminder of how quickly this game might swing Uruguay's way. Cavani picks the ball up just inside the box and his first touch is a dream, giving him the space to turn and strike at goal. Kim does well to block it.
Reaching for the ball Kim Min-Jae goes sliding and seems so stretch his knee. He's able to walk off and might be back on very soon but losing the Napoli defender today or in the games to come would be a big blow for South Korea.
Diego Alonso has seen enough. Edinson Cavani is being readied from the bench but really you suspect Uruguay might need someone to play deeper and offer a little more guile, craft and ball progression. Bentancur and Valverde have been struggling in that regard so far in this half.
The ball comes to Son just outside the penalty area and you can feel the expectancy of the South Korean supporters as he drives to a shooting position. He drops the shoulder but Gimenez reads the dummy, diving in to win possession for his side.
Uruguay get the ball rolling, knocking the ball around the back. It looks like the South Korean defensive line is pushed a little higher, we'll see if that lasts though.
Hwang will really be hoping that someone bails him out in the second half.
Just one minute of added time which gives you a sense of how this game has rattled along at a good pace. Both teams have had chances to take hold of this game but it is probably the Korea Republic who will be feeling most disappointed after that miss from Hwang.
This one was no sitter but Diego Godin looks crestfallen nonetheless. An excellent corner from Valverde is just begging for the veteran center back to meet it with authority. He does exactly that, directing his header low but seeing it bounce agonisingly back off the post.
Was that South Korea's moment? A wonderful low cutback by Kim and the goal is at the mercy of Hwang. All he has to do is keep it down but he's leaning back as he strikes the ball, looping it way over the bar. He had to finish that.
This game is at last getting stretched. A long ball over the top releases Son but he doesn't quite pick out the players at the back post with his cross shot. Uruguay swiftly fly up the other end when Olivera wins it and drives forward. Nunez is in acres of space on the left but Olivera greatly overhits the through ball and goalkeeper Kim pushes the ball to safety. He should have done so much better.
Bentancur and Valverde have started bending this game in their way. There's no real pressure on the ball from South Korea, who seem intent on keeping those two banks of four rock solid. It might work but Uruguay do have the players to pick the lock.
For the best part of five minutes Korea have been dominating possession, probing without cutting through, but out of nothing Uruguay spring forward with one wonderful pass by Gimenez. Valverde takes it down in the box and volleys at goal, looping it just too high. A shot across the Korean bows if ever you've seen one.
Maybe that mask has put him in the right frame of mind. An elegant stepover and he has beaten one defender. It looks for all the world that Caceres has fouled him but Clement Turpin is unmoved. Seconds later Vecino lobs it into the box but it bounces just too high for Suarez to get a head on it.
The team in red have seen about 80 percent of the possession early on and are getting Son involved in the game plenty. A long ball down the right is wonderfully claimed by Na, whose first touch allows him to nutmeg Olivera. The covering Gimenez puts the ball out for a corner, curled dangerously to the near post without anyone getting a touch on it.
Kick off is just moments away!
Nunez comes off the bench and delivers with a well-placed goal inside the box with one touch, earning Uruguay all three points. Pick: Uruguay 2, South Korea 1
His head coach thinks not. "I think the fact he would be wearing a mask is not an inconvenience for him," said Paulo Bento. "It is rather natural for him. We have stuck to the plan since we arrived here and also the way we integrated him into our group shows it has been natural.
"Our hope is he will feel comfortable to the greatest extent possible and we'll use the best strategy so he will feel at ease during the game."
Whatever their performances on the pitch, the fits are strong among Alonso's side.
Switzerland have got the ball rolling in Group G with a 1-0 victory over Cameroon. Their margin of victory might have been greater if they had taken their chances but there was also a fair bit of vindication in here for the African side, who had the Swiss on the ropes on occasion in the first half.
Uruguay XI: Rochet; Caceres, Godin, Gimenez, Olivera; Valverde, Vecino, Bentancur; Pellistri, Suarez, Nunez
South Korea XI: Seung-gyu, Jin-Su, Min-Jae, Woo-Young, In-Beom, Heung-Min Son, Jae-Sung, Moon-Hwan, Uijo, Sang-ho, Young-Gwon
Heung-min Son is expected to be in the team news when it arrives very soon, masked up just a few weeks after suffering that eye injury that put his World Cup in doubt. There is plenty of talent around him -- you wouldn't mind having your defense anchored by Kim-Min Jae, for instance -- but, if he is anything like the player he was before the start of this season, then it is Son that will provide the X-factor that South Korea will need to get out of a tricky group.
The old guard of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez are back for one last job today, two forwards that in their advanced years can still cause difficulties on the international stage. But then there is Nunez, an agent of chaos on the Premier League stage with Liverpool and one of the best young forwards in the world. His presence gives Diego Alonso the sort of headache all managers dream off, how to fit them all into one XI.
"With our strikers, our plan is to put a good performance together in the first game - we're excited with what we can produce," said the Uruguay head coach. "They give us peace of mind. We have flexibility - but we also have goalscoring opportunities, not only with our strikers but also with other players. We're good defensively, logically this will make us a very competitive team."
Good morning and welcome to the second game of a bumper Thanksgiving schedule... and I'm certainly thankful (just this once, I promise) that we get to see Uruguay at last. This team have an intriguing look to them, replete with young talent such as Darwin Nunez and Federico Valverde to compliment the veterans that have achieved so much. South Korea should offer them quite a decent test but if Uruguay are the dark horses we think they might be you'd expect them to ace it.