World Cup Preview: South Korea - Greece

Group B kicks off with an interesting lunchtime game...
Kick-Off: Saturday, June 12, 13:30 CET.
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Chasing Second Spot

South Korea are Asia's most successful team in the World Cup, having featured in the world's biggest showpiece event since 1986. Their most successful campaign was eight years back when they reached the semi-finals of the World Cup co-hosted by themselves and Japan.

In 2006, though, the Koreans stumbled and will be looking to reach at least the second round in South Africa. Pitted against Argentina, Nigeria and Greece in Group B, Huh Jung-Moo's side should be eying that all-open runners-up spot.

Indeed, if their current form is to be any indicator, then they should be the favourites to finish behind South American giants Argentina in the group. South Korea were undefeated in the qualifying campaign and in recent friendlies have got the better of Ivory Coast, Ecuador and Japan.

The East Asian side also came close to holding Spain to a goalless draw in Innsbruck, with only a Jesus Navas stunner in the 86th minute separating the Koreans from mustering an encouraging result.

However, prior to that match, the former World Cup semi-finalists had lost to European minnows Belarus. Moreover, the win against Togo in their 2006 opener is their only win in the World Cup overseas.

Making A Mark

The last time Greece featured in the World Cup was in USA '94 and it ended in tears. The Greek soldiers lost all their three games in the group stage and conceded a whopping ten goals, while failing to score any. This will be the former European champions' second appearance at the showpiece event and of all the European sides to have played at World Cup finals, Greece are the only team without a single goal.

Pitted in Group B alongside Argentina, Nigeria and South Korea, Otto Rehhagel, who at 71 is the oldest coach at the World Cup finals, will know that qualification for the last 16 stage of the competition is not out of the question for his side; but for that Greece will need to step up their game. Although the Greeks looked good in defeating Ukraine in a two-legged playoff to make it to the World Cup, they have looked lacklustred ever since.

A 2-0 defeat to Senegal in March in a friendly international was followed by a 2-2 draw with Asian minnows North Korea in late May. Greece's final friendly fixture against Paraguay in the build-up to the World Cup saw them fall 2-0 to the South Americans.

Things haven't been going too well for Greece in South Africa either, as three members were robbed while they were out training with the team in Durban. Angelos Charisteas, Sotiris Ninis and Giorgios Samaras returned to their hotel rooms on Thursday and found that they were robbed a combined total of about €2000.

However, Greece shouldn't be written off completely as under Rehhagel they did win Euro 2004 in the most unlikeliest of circumstances. Furthermore, Greece's Theofanis Gekas was top scorer in European qualification with 10 goals. A win against South Korea on Saturday afternoon will inject a healthy dose of confidence in the Greek army and indeed, this game promises to be a key one for them.



FORM GUIDE

South Korea

June 3: Spain 1-0 South Korea (Friendly)

May 30: South Korea 0-1 Belarus (Friendly)

May 24: Japan 0-2 South Korea (Friendly)

May 16: South Korea 2-0 Ecuador (Friendly)

March 3: Ivory Coast 0-2 South Korea (Friendly)


Greece

June 2: Greece 0-2 Paraguay (Friendly)

May 25: Greece 2-2 North Korea (Friendly)

March 3: Greece 0-2 Senegal (Friendly)

November 18: Ukraine 0-1 Greece (World Cup play-off)

November 14: Greece 0-0 Ukraine (World Cup play-off)


TEAM NEWS


South Korea

Striker Lee Dong-Gook has recovered from a hamstring injury and is likely to play some part on Saturday; in fact, he could even start. Captain Park Ji-Sung himself has recovered from a hamstring problem that forced him to miss the friendly against Spain. Lee Woon-Jae is likely to stay between the sticks for the East Asian side. Coach Huh Jung-Moo is expected to deploy a 4-4-2 system.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Lee Woon-Jae; Cha Du-Ri, Lee Jung-Soo, Cho Yong-Hyung, Lee Young-Pyo; Lee Chung-Yong, Ki Sung-Yong, Kim Jung-Woo, Park Ji-Sung; Park Chu-Young, Yeom Ki-Hun

Greece

Vangelis Moras is out of the match against South Korea with an ankle injury, meaning that midfielder Kostantinos Katsouranis could drop back to take his position in central defence. However, coach Otto Rehhagel might like to keep Katsouranis in the middle of the park. Both Vasilis Torosidis and Giourkas Seitaridis, who have had their fair share of injury problems recently, will start.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3):
Tzorvas; Seitaridis, Kyrgiakos, Papadopoulos, Torosidis; Katsouranis, Ninis, Karagounis; Samaras, Salpigidis, Gekas


PLAYERS TO WATCH


Park Ji-Sung (South Korea)

The Manchester United player is Asia's most famous player, having been with the English giants since 2005 - he has won the Premier League three times and the Champions League in 2008. South Korea need to make a winning start in Group B in the World Cup if they want to pull themselves ahead in race for the two qualifying spots, and for that Park Ji-Sung will have to be on top of his game.



The 29-year-old missed the friendly international against Spain earlier this month with a hamstring problem but the former PSV Eindhoven midfielder has recovered and is set to start against Greece on Saturday.

Theofanis Gekas (Greece)

Gekas was the top scorer in the qualifying campaign in the European zone with ten goals and the Grecian hopes of a World Cup success will rest on his shoulders to a large degree. Although
six of Gekas's goals came in the two games against Latvia, he was very important for Otto Rehhagel's side. 20 goals in 47 internationals for Greece means that the 30-year-old will be expected to be the key player upfront to unlock the Korean defence on Saturday.


PREDICTION


South Korea showed against Spain that they do have the abilities to stave off attacking sides and Greece are not particularly attack-minded. Both sides have tall players but the back four of the Koreans are not particularly big - this could give the Greek attackers an edge. The Castrol World Cup match predictor suggests that Greece have a 36% chance of winning the game in comparison to South Korea's 33%, and puts the draw at 31%, which is likely to be the final outcome.

South Korea 1-1 Greece


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Who will come out on top? Check out Castrol Football's 2010 World Cup Match Predictor.