Blessed with some of the best players in the world, Les Diables Rouges have been able to play sub-par soccer and still win their first two games in Group H to secure a spot in the Round of 16. South Korea face the predicament of needing to beat Belgium by multiple goals and pray for results to go their way in the other game, leaving their hopes of advancement on life support.
THE GREAT ESCAPE: South Korea are tied with Russia at the bottom of the group with one point, but their 4-2 loss to Algeria ruined their goal differential. Here’s how they can get out of the hole they’ve played themselves into: If Russia win 1-0 against Algeria, then the Koreans need only win 2-0 against Belgium. If Russia and Algeria tie, the Taeguk Warriors need it to be low-scoring, preferably 0-0, and then beat Belgium at least 3-0. None of this is impossible, but if it actually occurs, South Korea will have manufactured a Houdini-like escape from the jaws of elimination.
RED SCARE: The Red Devils are about as close as you can be to finishing first in their group, but they could still blow it. A loss to South Korea and an Algeria win over Russia would give the Desert Foxes (!) first spot in the group. It’s a possibility, but there is literally no other way that Belgium will not finish atop Group H. If they take care of business and win or tie against South Korea, that’s it. If they get off to a slow start, however, expect every Belgian you know to start checking the score of the Algeria game.
Belgium right now: pic.twitter.com/fv72dmbi9Q— SB Nation (@SBNation) June 22, 2014
FORWARD UNTO VICTORY: Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku is one of the great young talents of European soccer, but after being replaced in the 57th minute of Belgium’s 1-0 win over Russia on Sunday, he could only watch as his replacement, 19-year-old Divock Origi, put in the winning goal. To add insult to injury, the Queen of Belgium publicly congratulated Lukaku on scoring, drawing even more attention to the fact that he has not, in fact, scored a goal this tournament. Will Belgium manager Marc Wilmots go back to the well and start Origi against South Korea?
IN BAD SHAPE: South Korea’s defense against Algeria, in the words of head coach Hong Myung-bo, “lacked concentration,” wasn’t “able to respond … with intelligence,” and “was not well-organized.” Yikes. Maybe not terribly surprising considering they gave up four goals, but facing an attack like Belgium’s, the Korean defense is going to have to get better real quick.
HAVE A SEAT: With a spot in the next round already booked and with some starters one yellow card away from suspension, Wilmots has said he is planning to sit midfielder Axel Witsel and defender Toby Alderweireld against South Korea. Defender Vincent Kompany will also sit to avoid exacerbating a groin injury.
THE STAR YOU KNOW
- Eden Hazard, midfielder, Japan -- The Chelsea FC attacker was instrumental in setting up Origi for the winning goal against Russia. With tons of quality off the dribble, the shaky South Korean defense will have to be on the lookout.
THE PLAYER WHO WILL SURPRISE YOU
- Jung Sung-Ryong, goalkeeper, South Korea -- This is a must-win game for South Korea. Either they will get smoked by a strong Belgium team or shot-stopper Jung will have the game of his life.