The Arena Pantanal hosts the last matchday one fixture of the World Cup as Russia face off against a South Korea side desperate to right the wrongs of South Africa 2010. Both teams will have a fair view of their group after the result of the Belgium–Algeria game, and will look to play to their strengths in the hot and humid tropical conditions.
Coach Fabio Capello has made Russia into a team that is hard to break and will make sure that their record of only one clean sheet in their last six World Cup tournaments doesn’t continue. He will go for the tried and tested 4-3-3. Young striker Alexander Kokorin should start up front in a fluid looking front three with Alexander Samedov and Oleg Shatov supporting him. Russia have a good enough defence, but their midfield will be tested with the absence of talismanic captain Roman Shirokov who was unfortunate to miss the World Cup altogether with injury. In goal, Igor Akinfeev offers a calm presence.
South Korea’s 4-2-3-1 doesn’t ooze much confidence apart from Heung Min Son in the hole, and a glut of new faces means that South Korea are real outsiders in this tournament. No more familiar faces like Park Ji sung, South Korea’s captain Lee Chung Yong and Sunderland’s Ki Sung Yeung should provide the attacking impetus alongwith Son. Lee Chung Young is their main striker going forward; his goals will very much be required as South Korea look to repeat their heroics of 2002.
The players v the conditions
Russia are a country near the polar areas of the planet, while South Korea are in the far-east. Both will face near-alien conditions in the heat and humidity of Brazil, and whether the players could withstand the unforgiving conditions is a big question. It could be a remarkably slow, error-prone game and the match could well be decided by a moment of individual error, rather than a moment of individual brilliance.
South Korea’s attacking midfield v Russia’s Shirokov-less pivot
Roman Shirokov’s injury-induced absence in the centre of Russia’s midfield could be a big, gaping hole. Shirokov’s no-nonsense, solid style of play suits the Russians and gives them a solid base to attack. But his absence could mean an almighty struggle against South Korea’s attack, an area where the Asians are particularly well-stocked. Heung Min Son could prove to be a handful, as Shirokov’s absence could be felt keenly.
With the conditions and both teams’ conservative approach, a draw seems to be the likelier result although goals cannot be ruled out in this unusually high-scoring World Cup. A 2-2 draw with lots of defensive errors can be expected, with fine margins denying either team a win.