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Asia's Cup hopes increasingly rest on South Korea

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 21, 2014 at 3:21 pm •  Published: June 21, 2014
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PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) — The four Asian teams are having a dismal World Cup in terms of the win-loss ledger, and things will only get worse if South Korea doesn't beat Algeria on Sunday.

So far, Australia is out of contention after two matches, while Japan and Iran are hanging on by a thread.

South Korea needs to bank maximum competition points against Algeria ahead of its last Group H match against Belgium, which could determine which teams advance.

"We need the points, so the game with Algeria is very important," coach Hong Myung-bo said. "What I can say is that we are going to play to win. We have to win to pass out of the group."

South Korea, which reached the second round in South Africa four years ago in its best World Cup performance since a run to the semifinals when it co-hosted the tournament in 2002, only managed a 1-1 draw in its opener against Russia. The Koreans looked marginally the better side in what was a scrappy match, but its goal from substitute Lee Keun-ho came from a goalkeeping blunder.

Asia nations get four automatic spots at the World Cup but have struggled to really shine, with the exception of the remarkable South Korean campaign a dozen years ago.

Among the reasons for that is the relatively small number of Asian players in the top European leagues and the fact football didn't establish mass appeal in many countries across the continent until much later than Europe, South America and Africa.

And while the performances of some of the Asian teams have been heartening, the win column was empty after the first 10 days of the tournament.

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