South Korea seemed to be rewarded for more than a half an hour of lively play when a series of passes around the Uruguay box wound up with the ball at the feet of an unmarked Uijo Hwang. He one-timed the shot … but it sailed over the bar to the dismay of his teammates.
South Korea had controlled 65 percent of the possession so far. Its star, Son Heung-min, drew a roar from the crowd every time he neared the ball .
Uruguay had some dangerous moments of its own, with Rodrigo Bentancour and Mathias Olivera leading a frantic counter at 27 minutes. But Olivera’s pass to a sprinting Darwin Nunez was off the mark and score remains 0-0.
Breel Embolo (48’)
Switzerland opened its World Cup campaign with a 1-0 victory against Cameroon on Thursday, a result delivered by a goal from a player whose life story reflects the complexity of nationality and identity in an interconnected world.
The goal arrived in the 48th minute, on a strike by Breel Embolo, a Swiss striker who was born in Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé. Embolo turned in a low cross from Xherdan Shaquiri, but declined to celebrate it: Instead he held up his hands in what looked like a gesture of apology before he was swallowed by his celebrating teammates.
Embolo, 25, plays for the French club Monaco. But he was born in Cameroon and then to Europe as a child, first to France and then to Switzerland.
“I am very happy that he is playing for us,” Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer said. “That’s why we won today.”
Cameroon’s coach, Rigobert Song, spoke to Embolo after the game and said he offered his congratulations to a player he referred to as “my little brother.”
“We know each other, he is my little brother,” Song told reporters. “We often speak to each other on the phone and I wanted to congratulate him. It is fair play to do so. Just because we are on different teams, it does not mean we are not still brothers.”
“He did not celebrate his goal, but this is all part of football,” Song added. “I’m happy for him and proud of him. He is with the Swiss national team and I would have liked him to be on my side, but that is the way of life.”
Embolo has now scored for Switzerland at consecutive major championships, having opened their goal account at last summer’s European Championship, too.
Cameroon vs. Switzerland
How to watch: 5 a.m. Eastern. FS1, Telemundo, Peacock.
Cameroon takes great pride in being the most successful African team in World Cup history — thanks to eight appearances at the tournament, including one quarterfinal appearance — and expectations are high.
This week, the assistant manager, Sébastien Migné, was pushed on whether the team could win the World Cup. That’s unlikely, but overcoming Switzerland is not impossible.
Uruguay vs. South Korea
How to watch: 8 a.m. Eastern. FS1, Telemundo, Peacock.
“We respect South Korea,” Uruguay’s manager, Diego Alonso, said on Wednesday. “They have a lot of good players. It’s not just Son Heung-min.”
It does not always feel like that, admittedly, and if the Koreans are to overcome a Uruguayan team benefiting from the emergence of a promising young generation, they will need Son, Asia’s biggest star but now playing only weeks after sustaining a fractured eye socket, both fit and in form.
There has been a degree of hopefulness, in the last few days, in the desperate search for Brazil’s pressure point. Perhaps it’s the fullbacks: If Daniel Alves, his bubbling energy now finally starting to simmer at age 39, can get in the squad, the options cannot be outstanding.
Or maybe it’s the midfield: Perhaps Tite, the country’s coach, will be unable to resist the temptation to deploy his vast array of attacking talent, leaving Casemiro as the only overworked adult in the room. Or, at a pinch, it could be Neymar. Can Neymar be relied upon to deliver when it matters?
How to watch Brazil vs. Serbia: 2 p.m. Eastern. Fox, Telemundo, Peacock.
It all feels just a little desperate. There is no guarantee that Brazil will win the World Cup, of course, not least because of the quality of some of its rivals. Argentina and now Germany might have stumbled, but France, England and, thanks to a faintly harrowing demolition of Costa Rica on Wednesday, Spain have all shown their hand. The field is taking shape.
In the weeks before the tournament, the assumption was that Brazil was at the head of it. Tite has at his disposal a “golden generation,” as his Serbian counterpart, Dragan Stojkovic, put it. Stojkovic, for those with long enough memories, knows a thing or two about golden generations. There is no obvious pressure point. This is the best team Brazil has sent to a finals since it won the tournament in 2002; it is, in fact, a substantially better team than the one that triumphed in Japan 20 years ago. It has seen the standard. Now it is time to match it.
Portugal vs. Ghana
How to watch: 11 a.m. Eastern. Fox, Telemundo, Peacock.
Remarkably, Portugal — the European champion only six years ago, and a regular contender for major honors for much of the last two decades — is likely to open its campaign to win the World Cup with a team that includes a striker currently without a club.
Cristiano Ronaldo, a little-known 37-year-old from the island of Madeira, was recently released by his former employer and will be hoping good performances at the tournament can help him catch the eye of a new club.