World Cup 2014 Group H preview: South Korea v Belgium
Following Greece’s great escape, South Korea, 33/1 to qualify from Group H, can feel emboldened heading into their final game against a Belgium side that are already safely through to the knockout phases.
It is clear that in this World Cup anything can happen, but the Taegeuk Warriors will need to steal some of the Pirate Ship’s good fortune if they are to navigate the choppy waters awaiting them in this vital match.
As the only nation left representing East Asia, they face the same predicament as their Japanese counterparts in Group C – they must beat the pool leaders and make up a negative goal difference, whilst hoping results elsewhere favour them. In this scenario, as long as Algeria do not beat Russia, a place in the last 16 is still possible for Hong Myung-Bo’s team.
Where the Blue Samurai failed, the Taegeuk Warriors can emerge triumphant. The key component for South Korea could be sharpshooter Song Heung-Min, at 11/4 to net any time in the game, following his strike against Algeria. The Bayer Leverkusen forward completed a cheeky turn, and finished with a low strike through Rais M’Bolhi’s legs, to claw one back for his side in their demoralising defeat.
Sunderland star Ki Sung-Yeung had a stinging shot turned over the bar by a goalkeeper who was then keen to make amends, and is 7/1 to be on target anytime against Belgium.
In the six-goal extravaganza with the Desert Foxes, Hong Myung-Bo’s team displayed similar defensive frailties to Japan. Bullied at the back, they showed a worrying lack of composure and organisation that had also been evident in their 4-0 mauling by Ghana in a World Cup warm-up game.
However, unlike the Blue Samurai, who spurned numerous chances, South Korea have a proven poacher ready to stand up and be counted. With two goals in his last five games for the Taegeuk Warriors, Song Heung-Min is at 2/1 to end the tournament as his nation’s top scorer and 14/1 to bag a brace against Belgium.
Belgium, meanwhile, have not only qualified with two victories against Russia and Algeria, but safely secured passage from their pool. Marc Wilmots’ side will be aiming to make it five wins on the trot, and are odds-on at 8/11 to beat, and consequently eliminate, South Korea.
Despite currently topping Group H, the Red Devils, 20/1 to win the tournament, or 10/3 to reach the semi- finals, are still being labelled as dark horses. With talents in the team such as Thibaut Courtois, Vincent Kompany, and Eden Hazard amongst others, they should be called anything but.
South Korea, who need to win, will be vulnerable to Belgian counter-attacks, but Wilmots’ defence has looked far from imperious itself, which could make for an exciting match-up.
Russia and Algeria had opportunities aplenty to give the Red Devils a shock, but failed to capitalise. Consequently, rather than facing a side that are saving themselves for the last 16, the Taegeuk Warriors could find themselves taking on a team eager to show their true worth.
Having only netted three times in their last two outings, Belgium will be keen to add more goals to their tally. Substitute Divock Origi fired home the winner against Fabio Capello’s Russia, and is 7/4 to score anytime against South Korea. Meanwhile, assist-maker Hazard is also 7/4 to be on target anytime, and save the glory for himself.
History favours the Red Devils, with two victories out of three previous meetings between the sides. The only other encounter ended 1-1, and odds are at 6/1 for a repeat of that result. However, a draw would be as good as a loss for South Korea, who will be hoping to be the recipients of some good luck from the World Cup Gods, in a tournament which has so far been kind to plucky underdogs.