Russia 1 South Korea 1: Three talking points
Russia 1 South Korea 1: Thee talking points as Aleksandr Kerzhakov's goals earns a draw for Fabio Capello's men
Group H wide open
The term ‘dark horses’ has been so overused on Belgium that it is now being spoken with ever-increasing cynicism, they are more bright white stallions with the attention they have been given. Whatever type of steed you want to label them as, their path to the round of 16 now looks even more of a canter than it did when the draw was made. This match had a feel of two sides determined not to lose ground in the tussle for the all-important second place. The Red Devils can seemingly afford to share a sniggering glance with Germany as their interests turns to who their knockout opponents will be from each other’s groups. Meanwhile, an almighty scrap is forming below them. On the evidence of this game, Algeria may have the strongest argument so far despite being the only side in the table yet to get off the mark. Whoever does eventually progress, it is hard to see their prize being anything else than a footballing lesson from Thomas Müller and co.
Russia high on quality, low on energy
Had it not been for the near-impossible immigration laws of Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union you could easily believe Fabio Capello was Russian at birth, so akin are his tactics to traditional Russian philosophies. Discipline, organisation and hard-work are all embedded within his current side and there appears to be little room for flair or expression. This may prove useful against tougher opposition but they have to take advantage more when they can smell blood. Their negativity almost cost them when the pre-match butter and lubricant solution applied to Igor Akinfeev’s gloves finally backfired for another highlight of what is becoming a hugely memorable tournament. It was only the concession of the goal which sprung them into life and saw them play with the freedom to equalise within six minutes. Capello seems determined to rule with an iron fist. He has not bothered to learn the language, will not pick any player playing abroad and is not afraid to freeze out star names. Alan Dzagoev and Alexander Kerzhakov were the two headline players in the Russian side, on reputation at least, but both were limited to game-changing roles upon emerging from the bench. Dzagoev’s introduction sparked an increase in tempo and penetration, while Kerzhakov provided the all-important leveller to become his country’s joint all-time leading scorer.
South Korea high on energy, low on quality
South Korea’s presence is always refreshing at the World Cup. Their fans’ excitement, exuberance and relentless positivity was a major factor behind their run to the semi-finals in 2002 – possibly the biggest over achievement in World Cup history. Without such support in numbers roaring them on, they look a different side. They progressed from a similarly generous group four years ago but did little to prove their worth as potential banana skins here. They attacked and defended with the energy that embodies the attitude of their supporters but continually lost the ball just as the rest of us were starting to draw breath of anticipation. Ki Sueng-Yeung showed some of the playmaking qualities that have caught the eye during his time in England and Bayer Leverkusen winger Son Hueng-Min looked lively but was wild in his delivery. The fact that they were forced to start Arsenal flop Park Chu-Young, who has roughly two hours playing time this season, up front says everything. Only goal difference separated them from Uzbekistan in qualifying. Do not expect a repeat of 12 years ago.