South Korea, best remembered for its historic journey to the semi-finals of this tournament back in 2002 will face Algeria in Porto Allegre for what could be an important game for both the so-called underdogs of group H. Both the sides should be well aware of the fact that a victory would leave them well-placed to qualify from a World Cup group that still remains wide open.
The group standings will become clearer once Russia and Belgium play earlier in the day, but a win for South Korea would place it on the verge of the knockout rounds after it drew its first game against Russia 1-1. Three points for Algeria, who lost 2-1 to Belgium after leading for much of the match, would propel it back into contention, while a loss would all but end its World Cup.
Lee Keun-Ho could be drafted into the starting line-up after coming off the bench to score against Russia. Midfielder Ha Dae-Sung has been ruled out of Sunday’s game with a damaged ligament in his left foot, according to South Korean media reports. While the Desert Foxes are expected to show some of the attacking prowess they exhibited in the CAF Qualifiers, with goalscorer Islam Slimani, an option in attack, although El Harbi Soudani should retain his spot. Whoever main coach Halihodzic goes with, they will be expected to benefit from Sofiane Feghouli’s skill and creativity in the middle of the park.
- This is South Korea and Algeria’s first World Cup encounter.
- South Korea are unbeaten in their two previous World Cup games against African sides, winning against Togo in 2006 (2-1) and drawing against Nigeria in 2010 (2-2).
- Sofiane Feghouli’s goal from the penalty spot against Belgium was the only shot that Algeria managed to hit on target in their opening game.
- In fact, Algeria attempted only three shots (inc. blocked) in the whole match against Belgium – no side attempted fewer in the opening round of group stage matches.
These are the possible line-ups for this group H encounter.
South Korea: Sung-Ryong, Suk-Young, Young-Gwon, Heung-Min, Chu-Young, Lee-Young, Ja-Cheoi, Kook-Young, Sung-Yueng, Keun-Ho, Jeong-Ho
Algeria: Mbolhi; Bougherra, Ghoulam, Halliche, Mostefa; Feghouli, Medjani, Bentaleb, Taider; Mahrez, Soudani
Key Players – Heung-Min Son and Sophiane Feghouli
This game as we know could well be decided by the finer details and the outcome of this fixture is well and truly in the hands of these two players – The prodigal ‘Son’ of South Korea and Sophiane Feghouli of Algeria. Heung-Min plies his trade for Bayer Leverkusen and has had a good season under Sami Hyypia. He is known to be quick on the ball with a knack to unlock defences and is quite simply the most gifted player in the current South Korean set up. Much has been talked about how his form could be crucial for South Korea in this World Cup and what better game to show the world what he is made of than this crunch tie against the Algerian team?
Algeria lost to Belgium in their opening game despite taking the lead through a composed Feghouli spot-kick. Sophiane has had a very good season for Valencia and will be looking to make himself tough for the Koreans to deal with. Algeria’s defensive approach invited Belgium to complete their comeback in the last 20 minutes at Mineirao, something coach Vahid Halilhodzic knows his team cannot afford to replicate in Porto Allegre and go attack the opponents instead, if they want to make a serious qualification push. If that is to happen, it is imperative that Feghouli has a very good day at the office.
The Desert Foxes stifled Belgium for large parts of the game before eventually being overpowered in the final quarter. If they loosen up and move the ball freely and are willing to take more risks, we could be in for an entertaining group H encounter. Though I for one believe this would end in a stalemate with both the teams sharing the spoils.