South Korea staring at early World Cup exit

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 24, 2014 at 9:44 am •  Published: June 24, 2014
Advertisement
;

MOGI DAS CRUZES, Brazil (AP) — For South Korea, 2002 is starting to feel like more than just a dozen years ago.

The team that reached the semifinals at his home World Cup in its heyday has been struggling mightily in Brazil, where even a lucky break hasn't managed to bring it close to the second round.

South Korea is staring at an early elimination unless it can somehow beat already-qualified Belgium on Thursday in their final Group H game and have the result of Algeria-Russia go its way.

But the team coached by Hong Myung-bo — who was the captain for its semifinal run in 2002 — still has an almost blind belief that things will turn, somehow.

"We will now do our best to the very end of the competition. That's the only option we have left," Hong said.

His team already benefited from a piece of luck when Russia gifted it the lead in their opening 1-1 draw, when Igor Akinfeev fluffed an easy shot for the biggest goalkeeper blunder so far of the World Cup.

South Korea couldn't hang on to the lead for more than six minutes, though, and its lightweight defense was further exposed when it conceded four goals in a loss to Algeria, making sure its two goals were for naught.

Now it must overcome a Belgium side that is already through to the next round, but want to keep its perfect record going.

Some key players will be missing for Belgium, though. Since starters Axel Witsel and Toby Alderweireld already have a yellow card and face the threat of suspension, they won't start.

"Our focus is on the second round," said Belgium coach Marc Wilmots.

Wilmots is also considering sidelining captain and central defender Vincent Kompany to spare his groin from any more strain after he had to miss three days of training in the run-up to Sunday's game against Russia.

Continue reading this story on the...