There have been several tales in this World Cup of people driving unfeasible distances to be here. None, however, eclipse the tale of a family who drove from Uruguay in an old Citroen, to be at the World Cup.
Taking a circuitous route Mario Sabah, and his adult sons Ismael and Matias, froze in Canada, baked in Pakistan, and were frequently low on cash, but the lunatic quest now looks inspired after the tiny South American nation made it to the quarter-finals for the first time in 40 years.
Luis Suarez, who plays for Ajax but will be in the big leagues very soon, scored twice as Uruguay underlined what dark horses they are with a contradictory performance full of latent threat. Ahead early on, Uruguay sat back until conceding an equaliser 22 minutes from time to Bolton's Lee Chung Yong. They immediately returned to the offensive and Suarez took them into the last eight with a superb 80th-minute strike.
"It is the most important goal in my career," he said. "What comes to mind at that time, the people you think about, are your wife, your daughter, the people of Uruguay who supported us in the bad times." There have been plenty of them since their winning of the first World Cup in 1930, and another in 1950, but Uruguay do have a population not much larger than Wales. Yet in Suarez and Diego Forlan they have a front pair as good as anything at these finals. Behind them is a resolute defence which has conceded only once in four games. They are eager and experienced. All but the midfielder Egidio Arevalo play their club football in Europe.
"We have been trying to achieve this for a long time, with great players and good coaches, without success," said Oscar Tabarez, the coach. "That is why people at home are having parties in the streets."
Tabarez, who took Uruguay to the second round 20 years ago before falling to hosts Italy, said of their quarter-final challenge next Saturday: "We do not have to improve on many things, we simply have to capitalise on this."
In front of a disappointing crowd, and on a pitch which looked as if England's rugby XV had been ploughing it up, not their footballers, both teams made nervous starts. None suffered more than South Korea's goalkeeper Jung Sung Ryong who unaccountably left Forlan's eighth-minute cross. Suarez, drifting in unmarked at the far post, finished neatly from a tight angle.
The goal stunned the Koreans who had already hit the post through a free-kick from Park Chu Young. Uruguay allowed them to recover their poise, conceding space and seeking to hit on the counter. Park Chu Young and Cha Du Ri threatened and while Suarez could have scored at the other end, Uruguay's decision to surrender the initiative looked increasingly risky.
A glorious sunny day on the Eastern Cape had by now given way to drenching rain making the Wembley-esque pitch even trickier for defenders, but defiant resistance and solid goalkeeping kept the Koreans at bay. Then Uruguay failed to clear a deep free-kick and Lee Chung Yong bravely headed in. It was the first goal Uruguay had conceded in 338 minutes here. The striker could then have put South Korea into the lead but shot weakly.
Uruguay came out to play again, and looked the better side with Suarez and Forlan going close. Then Forlan's corner reached Suarez. He made space with a neat shimmy and curled a shot inside the far post. Uruguay duly pulled back again, and were nearly undone as Lee Dong Gook went clear. To the surprise of few who saw him at Middlesbrough, his shot lacked conviction. Matias had said: "If we can make it this far in this car, then Uruguay can be world champions." Unlikely but so was their journey.
Referee: Wolfgang Stark (Germany)
Man of the match: Suarez
Match rating: 7/10Reuse content