Group H: Russia v South Korea preview

Russia look in fine form after topping their qualifying group. Can South Korea stop them from starting off with a win?

    Russia have won four of their last five games, conceding just two goals [GALLO/GETTY]
    Russia have won four of their last five games, conceding just two goals [GALLO/GETTY]

    Russia are unlikely to play an expansive, attack-minded game against South Korea in their World Cup Group H opener, focusing instead on rigid discipline.

    Just the way conservative coach Fabio Capello likes it.

    Russia, who since the break-up of the Soviet Union have failed to progress to the knockout rounds of the World Cup, are in fine fettle after an impressive 2014 qualifying campaign in which they pipped Portugal to top their group.

    Winners of four of their last five games, conceding just two goals, the Russians are making their first appearance at the World Cup since 2002 when the finals were co-hosted by South Korea and Japan.

    Losers of four of their last five, including a 4-0 hammering by Ghana in their final warm-up on Monday, South Korea can only cast envious glances at their opponent's defensive solidity having shipped 11 goals during the horror run.

    Coach Hong Myung-bo, who skippered the Koreans on their magical run to the semi-finals on home soil 12 years ago, has his work cut out to rebuild their shattered confidence before Tuesday, but there is no doubt the team have been playing well within themselves.

    Venue: Arena Pantanal, Cuiaba

    Kick-off: June 17, 2200GMT

    Key stats: Russia have not progressed out of the group stage of the two previous World Cups they have qualified for since they gained independence from the Soviet Union (1994 and 2002).

    Fabio Capello has lost just twice in 20 matches as Russia manager, both 1-0, to Portugal and to Northern Ireland. He has a win percentage of 60%.

    This is South Korea's eighth straight World Cup appearance; only Brazil, Germany, Italy, Argentina and Spain can boast a longer current streak.

    South Korea have only won two of their last 10 World Cup games (against Togo in 2006 and Greece in 2010).

    SOURCE: Reuters


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