Russia v South Korea – Russian Roulette For Koreans
Russia V South Korea
Russia take on South Korea to complete the first round of group stage matches. In a tough-looking fixture, I try and spot the value.
Russia qualified for this summer’s World Cup by topping UEFA Group F, ahead of Portugal by one point, with seven wins and one draw from their 10 games played. A 100% home record was the key to Fabio Capello’s team’s success, but results on the road were a cause for concern with points dropped in both Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan.
World Cup warm-up matches produced two wins against Morocco and Slovakia and a 1-1 draw with Norway. Zenit St. Petersburg striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov found the back of the net in the 1-0 triumph over Slovakia, adding to the five he scored in qualifying. While another two clean sheets were recorded for a team that conceded only five goals in qualifying.
This a well-organised, well-drilled Russian side that fits the mould of an archetypical Fabio Capello team.
On the other hand, South Korea’s preparations for the tournament were disconcerting to say the least. Just two games were played; both were lost with no goals scored and five conceded. Defeats to Tunisia (1-0) and Ghana (4-0) mean it is now just one win and four defeats in their last five games played, and they have failed to score in all four of those losses.
Qualification for Brazil 2014 didn’t offer any more encouragement as they finished two points behind group winners Iran and only secured qualification via the virtue of a one goal better goal difference than third-place Uzbekistan.
Russian captain Roman Shirokov was ruled out of the World Cup due to a knee injury and was replaced in the squad by Ruban Kazan midfielder Pavel Mogilevets.
South Korea also made late adjustment to their squad when defender Kim Jin-soo was ruled out with an ankle injury and replaced by Mainz full-back Park Joo-ho who had been a surprise omission from the original 23.
Head to Head
The two teams met for the first time just last year, a month before the World Cup draw was made. Russia were 2-1 winners on the night thanks to goals from Fedor Smolov and Dmitriy Tarasov, after Kim Shin-wook had given South Korea the lead early on.
Russia are made favourites to kick off the campaign with a win and look a very good bet at odds of 5/4. South Korea’s qualification campaign and recent friendly results give us little reason to think that they can cause an upset here and Russia’s efficiency can see them to the three points.
It’s unlikely to be emphatic, however, and the 1-0 scoreline looks to be the play in the Correct Score market. Russia to win with a clean sheet is also a good bet at odds of 11/5 and star striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov is 4/1 to get the first goal of the game.