FOZ DO IGUACU, Brazil (Yonhap) ― After securing just one point in its first two Group H matches at the ongoing FIFA World Cup in Brazil, South Korea faces a must-win situation against the heavy favorite Belgium in Sao Paulo on Thursday.
The match between No. 57 South Korea and the 11th-ranked Belgium will kick off at 5 p.m. Thursday (5 a.m. Friday in Seoul) at Arena Corinthians.
The South Koreans have their backs against the wall after getting picked apart by the ruthless Algerian offense in their 4-2 loss on Sunday in Porto Alegre. They will need to regroup quickly, both mentally and physically, to take on the favored Belgium team which has already clinched a spot in the Round of 16.
South Korea must defeat Belgium and get some help from the Russia-Algeria contest to be held also on Thursday.
If South Korea and Russia win their matches, they will be tied with four points and will go to a tiebreaker to determine who joins Belgium in the knockout round. If South Korea and Algeria emerge as winners on Thursday, then they will be level with four points each and a tiebreaker will decide their fate.
|Korea head coach Hong Myung-bo runs a practice session in Foz do Iguacu, Brazil, Monday. ( Yonhap)|
The first tiebreaker is goal difference, followed by goals scored. Currently, Algeria has a goal difference of plus-1, followed by Russia at minus-1 and South Korea at minus-2.
Beating Belgium, which boasts some of the brightest stars in European club soccer today, including Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany and VfL Wolfsburg’s Kevin De Bruyne, is daunting enough of a task. Having to score multiple goals in the process seems virtually impossible for a team that, prior to the World Cup, had scored just nine times in 10 matches.
Keeping the Belgians off the board will also be a tough challenge for Korea. Algeria exploited gaping holes left by the aimless Korean defenders, who had no answer against speed and crafty attackers. Two defenders, Hong Jeong-ho and Kim Young-gwon, were badly exposed in particular, and were largely responsible for three of Algeria’s goals.