South Korea face uphill task against Belgium

South Korea face uphill task against Belgium

Struggling South Korea will need to rediscover the magical spirit of 2002 as they fight to rescue their dismal World Cup campaign against unbeaten Belgium here on Thursday.

After drawing with Russia and losing 4-2 to Algeria, Group H’s bottom side need to win big against already-qualified Belgium if they are to stay in the tournament.

Logic decrees the Koreans will soon be following Japan home as their attack has been largely toothless so far, coupled with severe problems in defence. But coach Hong Myung-Bo can draw at least on his experiences at the 2002 tournament, when he was part of the team that shocked the world by reaching the semifinals.

That year, the unquenchable desire of Guus Hiddink’s team and some favourable refereeing decisions helped the Taeguk Warriors upset Portugal, Italy and Spain.This time around, things have been different. The 1-1 draw with Russia owed much to Igor Afinkeev’s goalkeeping howler, and South Korea were then taken apart by unfancied Algeria.

On-loan Arsenal striker Park Chu-Young remains goalless and Hong had some choice words for his defence after they conceded three in the first half against Algeria.In South Korea’s favour is that Belgium, who are top of the table with maximum points, are expected to rest some of their first-choice players. Centre-back Thomas Vermaelen looks set to miss out with a hamstring strain but coach Marc Wilmots may give more game time to Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, who is yet to hit top form. 

“I understand that people expect a lot of me and I know I can do better.”Although Belgium have a spine of top-level stars in Thibaut Courtois, Vincent Kompany, Hazard, Marouane Fellaini and Romelu Lukaku, it’s a new face who has been making headlines.

Divock Origi, 19, from Hazard’s former club Lille, is the latest headline-maker of the production line with two sparkling substitute appearances including the winner against Russia.

“It hasn’t sunk in what’s happening to me. Playing at a World Cup, scoring at the Maracana in front of my parents and my sister. It’s crazy,” said the teenager.