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 Posted by John Duerden
Jun 16, 2014

Five key players for South Korea

South Korea fullbacks Lee Yong and Park Jooho talk about the importance of the first match and their desire to impress as the team arrived in Cuiaba for their opening match against Russia.

Tuesday will bring the last match of the opening round of games, and it is a chance for South Korea to put some poor recent form behind them and get their World Cup off to a good start against Russia in Cuiaba. ESPN takes a look at five Taegeuk Warriors who are set to play key roles in the match.

Ki Sung-yueng (Swansea City)

The 25 year-old has already played almost 60 games for his country and is one of the best passers in Asia. Always seems to have time on the ball, never flustered and ever available, he sets the tempo for the Taeguk Warriors where he plays deeper than he did while impressing on loan at Sunderland last season.

He is also something of a worry as his past two appearances have been two of his worst in the famous red shirts. Now, though, Ki has shaken off a virus, and coach Hong Myung-bo hopes that he can shake off what is sure to be tight Russian attention in midfield to supply the bullets for the attackers and take the pressure off the defence when necessary.

Kim Young-gwon (Guangzhou Evergrande)

The highly-rated centre-back will never get a better chance to show the world what he can do. The 24-year-old has established himself as one of the best defenders in Asia and lifted the Asian Champions League trophy last November, earning another round of praise from his biggest fan -- World Cup-winning football manager and current Guangzhou head coach Marcello Lippi.

It is time for Kim to make the step up to the next level. Already bound for Europe sometime in 2014, the standard of club he goes to could be determined by how he performs here, and the clash with Aleksandr Kokorin could be a defining moment of the game, the World Cup for Korea and Kim's career. Big, strong and fast, this is going to be a great test for Kim and one he has to pass.

Son Heung-min (Bayer Leverkusen)

'Sonsational' has been a pretty common headline in the German media the past two or three years, as the 21-year-old burst onto the scene with Hamburg before a big-money move to Bayer Leverkusen last summer.

Likely to start on the left, he loves running into space, very fast, from deep before unleashing a rocket from outside the area. He hasn't always replicated his club form for his country but that hasn't always been his fault. There has been some criticism that he does not cover his full-back as much as he should, but if he can conjure up one of his specials then nobody will care too much about that.

Son Heung-min will be pivotal on the left flank for South Korea.

Jung Sung-Ryong (Suwon Bluewings)

It is not certain that Jung will even start, but it is probable. The goalkeeping spot has been a problem one for the Taeguk Warriors -- so blessed in that department at the 2002 World Cup -- ever since Old Spider Hands Lee Woon-jae was finally ousted by Jung ahead of the 2010 tournament.

Despite still being the No. 1 -- even if only just -- four years later, Jung has never really convinced for the national team, and his form took a turn for the worse in 2013. His worst moment came in a friendly against Russia in Dubai last November when he allowed the ball to squeeze through his hands. That helped turn a fairly comfortable-looking 1-0 lead for Korea into a 2-1 defeat. A repeat would not be welcome.

Lee Chung-Yong (Bolton Wanderers) Lee has been Korea's most consistent and best attacking player for some time now. Since qualification ended, the winger has been back at his best following a bad leg break for Bolton in 2011.

His feet are not quite as quick as they were but are pretty swift nonetheless, and when he gets going, the 25-year-old can skip past the best defenders.

The player's weakness is poor finishing, but despite that he managed two at the 2010 World Cup -- scoring against Argentina and Nigeria. Russia are a little vulnerable on the flanks and Lee, who plays on the right but is happy to switch flanks at any time, is the man to take advantage.

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