PORTO ALGERE, Brazil: Algeria scored their first World Cup goal in 28 years in their opener and will hope the offensive floodgates have opened in a crucial Group H match against a leaky South Korea today.
With dark horse Belgium sitting atop the group standings and Russia and Korea joint second after an opening 1-1 draw, Algeria will be fighting for their World Cup lives today at Porto Alegre’s Beira Rio Stadium.
Back in the World Cup for the fourth time, the ‘Desert Foxes’ have never made it past the first round and will need a result against the Koreans if they are to extend their stay in Brazil.
The only Arab nation present at the tournament, the Algerians arrive at this gritty port city believing a place in the last 16 is within their reach after going down 2-1 to highly rated Belgium.
Confidence and mood, however, will not be as high in the South Korean camp after sloppy play in their back end cost them a victory against Russia.
After yielding 11 goals in five World Cup warm-ups, the Koreans again looked vulnerable at the back in their opener and Algeria’s coach Vahid Halilhodzic will be plotting to add to their woes.
When Sofiane Feghouli converted a spot kick to give Algeria a 1-0 lead over Belgium, the Arab nation celebrated their World Cup finals goal since 1986 and were on course for a famous upset until the Europeans struck twice in the last 20 minutes.
“We could have won,” lamented Halilhodzic.
“We were heroic in the first half. At half-time I was sure we would make it. We’ve missed a major opportunity. But I don’t want to blame anyone. You can say I am the one to be blamed, as usual.
“Belgium is one of the best teams in Europe. My team gave as much as they could in the present time.”
South Korea, fourth place finishers in 2002 on home soil, also see the contest as a must-win with group favourites Belgium looming on the horizon.
“We have to defeat them to get to the round of 16,” said Korean midfielder Koo Ja-cheol.
“We’ll concentrate on doing whatever it takes to win.”
Korean coach Hong Myung-bo, the elegant sweeper who led Korea to the 2002 semi-finals, will want to see a better effort defensively but is also considering his attacking options.
A team that plays with plenty of offensive flair and ambition Hong could keep Park Chu-young as his main striker against Algeria or bring in Kim Shin-wook or Lee Keun-ho, a sergeant serving in the South Korean military who earns less than $150 per month.AFP