They have not been at their best yet in Brazil, but the initial goal for Belgium has been completed. They have already qualified for the knockout stage, but if they want to top the group and avoid the greater likelihood of playing Germany in the round of 16, they will need to play to get a result against a South Korea side that must win to keep their hopes of progression alive.
It’s been tough goings for South Korea this summer – a bore draw against Russia and then a complete mauling by Algeria leaves their World Cup campaign in serious doubt. The horror scenario of coming up against a Belgian side not only still looking to break out, but one that has not officially qualified will make for an entertaining match at the very least.
South Korea do have some quality about them, none more so than Hon Heung-min, but do I even have to go into the talent that graces the Belgian side? Tough task ahead for the Taegeuk Warriors against the Rode Duivels, but this is the World cup and nothing is impossible. Here is our preview and prediction.
Projected Starting XI
Belgium: Thibaut Courtois; Jan Vertonghen, Daniel van Buyten, Vincent Kompany, Toby Alderweireld; Axel Witsel, Marouane Fellaini; Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Dries Mertens; Divock Origi
South Korea: Sung-ryong; Suk-young, Young-gwon, Jeon-ho, Yong; Ja-cheol, Chung-yong, Kook-young, Sung-yueng; Chu-young; Heung-min
Key’s for Belgium:
- Should he start, make sure to utilize the pace and the direct style of play that Origi thrives under. Like all young players, he is eager to get forward and make a difference, and while Lukaku was brilliant for Everton this season, he has not shown that same killer instinct this summer. Origi has played very well in both appearances, so Marc Wilmots should ride that as long as he can.
- With van Buyten likely to start along side Kompany, Belgium must make sure that they do quite well to deal with Heung-min. Very talented player, very direct and has bags of pace as well as his quality on the ball. If they are not careful, van Buyten could be found out.
- They must get the best out of Hazard finally. This may be meaningless match for Belgium to a certain extent, but Hazard has not been firing on all cylinders this summer thus far, and there is no better time for him to get to his best than in the run in to the round of 16 matchup that awaits them.
Key’s for South Korea:
- They must, must, must get Heung-min involved from the first minute till the last. He is far and away their best player, not just in terms of ability but in terms of influence on the pitch. He is highly rated in the Bundesliga, and if he can find space to expose Belgium at the back, South Korea may well have a decent chance at getting a result.
- As long as they sort out their problems at the back, they will have a chance at a result. Belgium are talented, but they have only managed three goals in their two matches thus far, and for a side with as many gifted attacking players as they have, that is certainly sub-par for them. All South Korea have to do is maintain shape and make it hard for Belgium going forward.
- CONTROL THE MIDFIELD…if that’s possible when playing against a midfield tandem of Fellaini and Witsel.
- Heung-min v van Buyten – Quality on the ball, pace and direct style against experience, positional awareness and mental stability; which one wins?
- Origi v South Korea’s defense – This is the youngsters chance to show Wilmots that his potential selection ahead of Lukaku should be the standard practice. He also just today completed a move to Olympique Marseilles, and he’ll want to impress his new employers today.
Belgium still have much to prove to themselves, their coach and the tournament on the whole. Despite South Korea being up against it and needing to produce a fantastic display to give themselves any hope, their back-four is far too leaky to keep Belgium quiet on the day. 3-1 Belgium, and Hazard finally puts in a brilliant showing, with Origi bagging another goal as well.