South Korea vs. Belgium: 50-50 Challenge
Our expert bloggers will give their thoughts ahead of each game, so as South Korea take on Belgium in Group H, John Duerden (South Korea) and Wim Van Walle (Belgium) are your guides.
What's at stake?
John Duerden: Nothing less than a win will do for South Korea, although there is a good chance that three points will not be enough. The minimum expectation is that the team improves from a poor performance against Algeria. The first-half defensive display was especially disappointing and will be giving coach Hong Myung-bo nightmares for some time. Expectations about reaching the second round are no longer high, but hope abounds and there is enough of it to get millions back home out of bed to watch in the early hours of Friday morning. There is also hope that Belgium, already through, will pick a second-string team, that South Korea will surely be better than the previous game and that if the Taeguk Warriors do get the three points, then the result in the game between Algeria and Russia is the right one.
Wim Van Walle: There isn't a lot of history between Belgium and South Korea. The countries have met at just two World Cups. In 1990, Belgium won 2-0. Marc Degryse scored a brilliant lob which left a South Korean defender laughing on his goal line in disbelief. (Watch it here, from 1:11.) Drawn into the same group again in 1998, Belgium and South Korea drew 1-1. A year later, there was a friendly in Seoul in which Belgium beat their hosts 2-1. Some funny trivia: The official fan club of South Korea's football team is called The Red Devils.
JD: Not many players impressed in the loss to Algeria, but exception was Son Heung-min and the Bayer Leverkusen star is likely to be the team's main threat. In the Algeria game, the 21-year-old not only scored a well-taken first ever World Cup goal, he also completed more dribbles than any other player at this World Cup -- nine in total, though this not only demonstrates his abilities but also the lack of support he received from teammates. Son gave the Algerian defenders much to think about and if he can get a little more support from his teammates against the Red Devils, he could be even more effective, especially as the Belgians look a little vulnerable on the flanks.
WV: Belgium head coach Marc Wilmots will rest a number of players, in particular those on a yellow card. At right back, that means Anthony Vanden Borre takes the place of Toby Alderweireld. Vanden Borre's history is a succession of promise and failure, but he is highly talented and has found a second lease of life at Anderlecht, where he played a solid season. More attack-minded than Alderweireld, expect the skillful Vanden Borre to surge forward on the overlap, to send in some dangerous crosses or cut inside himself for a shot or a decisive pass.
JD: Romelu Lukaku. It is hard to know what kind of line-up Belgium will field given their place in the second round is secure and that Lukaku hasn't exactly been at his best so far, but he still has the potential to cause serious problems for South Korea. The Chelsea frontman will have watched with interest as a powerful Algerian frontline brushed aside the South Korean back line with ease, especially in the first half, and he has the power and pace that, if used to maximum effect, will give the centre-backs an extremely tough time. Hong Jeong-ho and Kim Young-gwon have shown in this tournament that they can struggle with the physical and direct approach.
WV: Judging from South Korea's previous two games, it is hard to say whom the Red Devils have to watch out for. Son Heung-Min seems the biggest threat. He scored in the game against Algeria and his nick name, "The Korean Ronaldo," if a bit over the top, does indicate a good deal of skill. A star in Germany's Bundesliga, he is currently Bayer Leverkusen's record signing. He will certainly keep Belgium's defence on its toes.
JD: Toby Alderweireld (or replacement) vs. Son Heung-min. Even Belgium at their best, which has not yet been the case in this tournament, are vulnerable at the fullback position and it is on the wings where South Korea are at their strongest. Against Russia, Alderweireld looked uncomfortable and gave away the ball and free kicks on a number of occasions. It could be that the display will cost him his starting place but South Korea will hope not. Son in full flow could cause all kinds of problems and if Lee Chung-yong, on the right, can up his game too, South Korea will be able to create chances.
WV: This is very much defence vs. attack. South Korea's defence looked woeful against Algeria and Belgium must use this to finally make an impression. Wilmots will make some changes but whoever starts will be hungry to prove that they have a right to remain in the starting eleven or deserve a chance to start. This should be the easiest group game for Belgium and it provides a chance for the Red Devils' young forwards to show that they can play and live up to the hype.
JD: I predict a 2-2 draw.There should be goals, four at least. South Korea need to win but are vulnerable at the back. Belgium can play without pressure and will surely enjoy the space available. It should be an entertaining game and while South Korea will improve, it's going to be tough to get the win that they need to have a chance of going through.
WV: The Red Devils set a record against Russia, remaining unbeaten for 12 games for the first time in Belgium's football history. It is hard to see how South Korea will keep Belgium from reaching 13. Belgium will win this one and a big score is not impossible. 3-0. Belgium must avoid complacency and a 1994 scenario. With only a point needed to win the group ahead of Holland, Belgium lost to Saudi Arabia and in the second round faced Germany. A highly contentious game ended in a 3-2 win for Germany.