Russia and South Korea will finally play their first game of the tournament on Tuesday night, the last two teams to play a game in the World Cup. Russia are in its first World Cup since 2002 while South Korea have won at least one game in each of the last three World Cups.
DOMESTIC INFLUENCE: Russia enter this World Cup as the only team to have all 23 players come from their domestic league. This has led to some great results, as Russia have not lost since last August, but could also speak to their lack of top-notch talent. No Russian team made it to the quarterfinals during this year’s Champions League.
LEGEND LEADS TAEGEUK WARRIORS: South Korea’s manager is Hong Myung-Bo, a national hero and former MLS star with the LA Galaxy. He won the Bronze Ball at the 2002 World Cup, a tournament partially played in his home country, and is hoping to lead his team past the Round of 16 for the first time since.
SHIROKOV MISSING: Just days before the start of the World Cup, Russia lost its best midfielder and captain, Roman Shirokov. Without its heart at the center of midfield Russia, will be forced to look to the flanks to provide some attacking flair, where Dimitri Kombarov and Yuri Zhirkov threaten. If the two of them can provide service to young starlet Aleksandr Kokorin, Russia should be able to get on the scoreboard.
THE STAR YOU KNOW
- Yuri Zhirkov, midfielder, Russia. The veteran midfielder is probably most known for his time with Chelsea, playing two seasons with the club from 2009-11. He has spent the last three seasons back in Russia, joining Dynamo Moscow for 2013-14.
THE PLAYER WHO WILL SURPRISE YOU
- Son Heung-Min, forward, South Korea. The 21-year-old is coming off a 10-goal season with Bayer Leverkusen and should prove to be a nuisance on the left side of South Korea’s attack.