Uruguay left it late to join the party in Qatar, producing its only noteworthy performance in the final group game.
On the back of the miserable loss against Portugal, Diego Alonso ditched his oversized hipster white trainers and three man defense. In its place, he opted for an old fashioned pair of formal brown leather shoes and a flat 4-4-2.
Quality from midfield
Rodrigo Bentancur and Federico Valverde dominated proceedings in the middle of the park for the first half hour against Ghana. This was the first time Alonso unleashed them as a central midfield pair in Qatar.
Starting from left midfield and cutting in, Giorgian de Arrascaeta had a fairytale of a first half, scoring two quick fire goals (incidentally the only goals netted by an Uruguay not short of attacking talent).
Luis Suarez was his old self, being brilliant and unpleasant in equal measures. Valverde pumped his fists at the referee after Andre Ayew saw his tame penalty saved by Sergio Rochet. Andrew Ayew was there, in the FNB Stadium, when Ghana crashed out of the 2010 World Cup in the hands (quite literally) of Uruguay.
The stars were aligning. This was Uruguay at their glorious and notorious best.
When Bentancur was forced off with an ankle injury, his mind was surely on the last 16 round that his side looked destined for. He was inconsolable.
Uruguay remained firmly in control for the rest of the game. Darwin Nuñez and Edison Cavani were both denied penalties, despite VAR reviews.
That being said, CBS Rules Expert Christina Unkel agreed with the officials in Qatar. She argues that while there is contact, it is not enough to warrant a foul in this scenario.
Then, the unexpected happened.
VAR breaks Uruguay hearts
South Korea snatched victory against Portugal in the dying moments. This put both Uruguay and South Korea on four points, both with the same goal difference. Uruguay’s offensive woes came to haunt them, as South Korea scored two more goals.
One more goal for Uruguay or one more goal against South Korea was the difference between heartache and delirium. However, VAR and controversial calls tell the story of Uruguay’s exit.
Not conceding the controversial late penalty awarded by VAR against Portugal would have been enough for Uruguay to reach the last 16. That, combined with the lack of a penalty in favor of the South American side against Ghana, was too much for some players.
Edinson Cavani, hard done by one of the calls, let the VAR screen know his frustration following the game.
Frustratingly, all penalty VAR reviews seem to have gone against them. Not agreeing with a referee taking a decision in real time is one thing, disagreeing with a referee and the supporting VAR team after they had ample of time to analyse the incidents is another.
Fine, fine margins.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Xinhua
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