Hello again! With the World Cup now upon us, I thought I’d do a piece with particular focus on the tournament in South Korea and some facts and figures on them and the teams in their group. So let’s get to it!
Increasing evidence of the upcoming tournament is appearing all over South Korea. I recently treated myself to a ‘Corner Kick’ donut while waiting to catch a coach to Gangneung (a big city on the coast – lovely beach) and thoroughly enjoyed it. I honestly felt like I was one bite closer to Rio. Once in Gangneung, I was sorely tempted by a pair of ‘England drawers,’ which I spotted in the local supermarket. Show your colours from your kegs up, that’s my motto. They had variations of drawers from many of the competing nations. I could have bought a pair for each day of the tournament and worn them according to who I favoured in that day’s game. It could be a great way to settle arguments:
‘I said Spain would beat Holland!’
‘You never did.’
A quick reveal of some Spanish-themed shreddies could settle many debates of this ilk.
Moving on from underwear, I’ll now try and provide some information on the teams in Group H. Unfortunately, South Korea have not had a particularly favourable draw when you look at their opponents. In their group, we find Algeria, Belgium and Russia. Given Belgium qualified by chalking up seven consecutive victories and can now field a side with the likes of Hazard, Kompany, Fellaini, Lukaka and Vertonghen they surely have to be considered favourites to finish top of the pile and will kick-start proceedings in Group H against Algeria on Tuesday 17th June at 5pm (BST). Prediction for final group position: 1st.
To look closer at Algeria, they come to the tournament as the only Arabic-speaking nation to make the finals and booked their place in Brazil after winning 5 of their 6 qualifiers before beating Burkina Faso in the play-offs. The Algerians enter the World Cup after winning praise from the likes of Rivaldo who claims their ‘chances of reaching the second round are abundant.’ I disagree. Prediction for final group position: 4th.
Next in the group are Fabio Capello’s Russia, the only team at the tournament whose squad is made up of entirely domestically-based players. After pipping Portugal to finish top of their qualifying group, the Russians will be making their first appearance at a World Cup for 12 years. It will be manager Capello’s second managerial appearance at a finals, however, after he lead England’s underwhelming 2010 campaign in South Africa. While there aren’t too many names that jump out from their squad-list, after an impressive qualifying campaign, the Russians will provide stiff opposition for South Korea when the two teams meet in their first match of the tournament on Tuesday 17th June at 11pm (BST). Prediction for final group position: 2nd.
And so, finally, onto the South Koreans. Ji-sung Park made huge strides towards popularizing football in South Korea; after two spells with PSV Eindhoven plus stints at Man United and QPR, Park is the most decorated Asian footballer in history. However, even with Park’s retirement from football, the South Korean squad still contains a few familiar faces with five of its members plying their trade in Britain: Arsenal’s Chu-young Park, Cardiff’s Bo-kyung Kim, Bolton’s Chung-yong Lee, QPR’s Suk-young Yun and Swansea’s Seung-yeung Ki (on loan at the mackems) will all be present in Brazil. 2014 will be South Korea’s eighth consecutive World Cup including that which they co-hosted with Japan back in 2002 when they reached the semi-finals. Despite this reasonable record, their qualifying campaign was something of a rocky road; they parted company with two managers along the way and only qualified thanks to Qatar beating Uzbekistan. The manager who will lead them out in Brazil is their most-capped player, Myung-bo Hong, who has already brought footballing silverware back to Korea in the form of an Olympic bronze medal for the football team at London 2012. He also assisted former Korean coach Guus Hiddink at Anzhi Makhachkala (remember them? Cisse’s last minute header in the UEFA Cup a couple of years ago? Small world eh?). In recent interviews, Ji-sung Park has said he believes that South Korea can win the World Cup ‘at some time.’ Unfortunately for them, however, I can’t see them getting to the knock-out stages, particularly as they face Belgium in their final group stage game which I believe could be their downfall. Prediction for final group position: 3rd.
Below, I’ve provided the fixture list for Group H and my predictions for the games. See what you reckon:
Tuesday 17th June 2014
Belgium 3-0 Algeria (5pm BST)
Russia 2-1 South Korea (11pm BST)
Sunday 22nd June 2014
Belgium 1-0 Russia (5pm BST)
South Korea 2-1 Algeria (8pm BST)
Thursday 26th June 2014
Algeria 0-2 Russia (9PM BST)
South Korea 1-3 Belgium (9PM BST)
If my predictions are correct, the final table for Group H will look like this:
I’ll do my best to keep you up-to-date with how South Korea get on and how the tournament is being received over here once it kicks off.
Until then, blog on!
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