Monday 04 April 2022, 03:00

Reunions aplenty in Group H

  • Uruguay eliminated Korea Republic and Ghana at South Africa 2010

  • They also knocked out Portugal at Russia 2018

  • The quartet have been grouped together at Qatar 2022

It is a footballing truism that, sooner or later, the chance will come to exact revenge. This was again in evidence in Friday’s Final Draw for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, when the footballing deities decided that Group H would feature four teams who have crossed swords in recent editions of the tournament. With the wounds from those defeats still to heal, the vanquished sides will have the chance to settle old scores. Uruguay, Portugal, Ghana and Korea Republic will battle it out for the section’s two knockout-phase places. Intriguingly, the teams know each other well, with their paths having crossed in recent World Cup knockout ties.

In the case of Uruguay, for many years, the country’s World Cup history centred on their two titles – the inaugural edition on home soil in 1930 and the famous Maracanazo in Brazil 20 years later. However, La Celeste have added a new chapter to that story with their fine performances in recent editions and will be looking to extend that run in Qatar. As fate would have it, though, they find themselves sharing a group with their last three victims in World Cup knockout ties. At South Africa 2010, the Round of 16 meeting between Uruguay and Korea Republic began under bright sunshine in Port Elizabeth. Luis Suarez put La Celeste ahead early on after a goalkeeping error, only for Lee Chungyong to level proceedings after the break. Then, as the skies opened late in the game, Uruguay’s long-suffering fans were singing in the rain after a second from Suarez secured their first quarter-final appearance for four decades. The pair had met once before on the world stage during their Group E encounter at Italy 1990, when the South Americans also prevailed, Daniel Fonseca getting the only goal of the game. Waiting for Oscar Tabarez’s side in the quarters were Ghana, the only African side left in the competition. And while the South African fans and vuvuzelas were all on the side of the Ghanaians that day, lady luck was not. A goal apiece from Sulley Muntari and Diego Forlan meant the game required extra-time, but again the headlines would be all about Suarez, who made a goal-line save with his hand to deny Ghana a certain winner in the final minute of the game.

Suarez’s tearful expulsion gave way to joyous celebration moments later when Asamoah Gyan's penalty clipped the top of the crossbar. La Celeste prevailed in the subsequent shootout, sending Uruguay into the semi-finals and ensuring Suarez would always have a place in the hearts of Uruguayan fans. If the 2010 finals witnessed Uruguay's return to world stage, the 2014 and 2018 editions underlined their new prominence. In Qatar, some of their most experienced players – Fernando Muslera, Diego Godin, Suarez and Edinson Cavani – could be taking part in their fourth World Cup. Cavani, for his part, was the architect his side’s memorable triumph in the Round of 16 at Russia 2018, scoring both goals in the 2-1 triumph that ended the hopes of a Portugal team featuring Cristiano Ronaldo. The footballing gods decreed that these four teams should cross swords again in Qatar. The Portuguese, it should be noted, also have a score to settle with the South Koreans, who eliminated them from the World Cup they co-hosted in 2002, Park Jisung securing a 1-0 win. Portugal and Ghana will also be renewing acquaintances, their paths having crossed at Brazil 2014, when the Seleção das Quinas won their Group G encounter 2 to 1 thanks to a late Ronaldo goal. Now with the four sides set to do battle for just two tickets to the knockout phase, their shared histories and determination to make amends should make this one of the most captivating groups in Qatar.