• Still mathematically possible for them to qualify but unlikely as they need to rely on the result of the other game. • Changes are possible to the defence that struggled badly in the opening half of their match against Algeria.
• Change also probable in attack with Park Chu-Young likely to make way.
After the nightmare first half they had against Algeria in their last match they showed a good response in the second half but overall the defeat did highlight the problems in the team and it would be no shock if changes are made, though at the time of writing so soon after the defeat there are no clues as to what these will be.
In defence both centre backs Hong Jeong-Ho and Kim Young-Gwon, were often caught out of position and had a match to forget. These have been the first choice pairing for coach Hong and he wouldn’t leave them out easily. Kwak Tae-Hwi and Hwang Seok-Ho are the back-ups though they aren’t considered entirely reliable defenders so it may be a case Hong and Kim start again. Hong’s place seems more vulnerable.
Jung again showed his weakness in goal, though with inexperience in the back-up keepers it seems possible he will keep his place.
In central midfield Park Jung-Woo may be likely to replace Han Kook- Young. Han wayward with both his tackling and passing against Algeria.
Upfront, although Park Chu-Young had little to work with he struggled to get involved and they may opt to bring in the height of Kim Shin- Wook who made a good impact against Algeria or Lee Keun-Ho who came off the bench to score in the opening game. Kim seems more likely to come from the bench so Lee a slight favourite.
Bench (from): Kim Seung-Gyu GK, Lee Beom-Young GK, Kim Chang-Soo RB, Hwang Seok-Ho CB, Hong Jeong-Ho CB, Park Joo-Ho LB, Han Kook-Young DM, Ha Dae-Sung CM, Kim Bo-Kyung AM/CM, Ji Dong-Won ST, Kim Shin-Wook ST, Park Chu-Young ST
Tactical Keys to the Game:
• Lost Vermaelen to an injury that looks set to end his tournament after he just won a starting role.
• Wilmots may seek to replace the trio of players on yellow cards: Alderweireld, Vertonghen & Witsel. • Qualification is assured after two wins but Algeria could still beat them to top spot if they lose.
Vermaelen – CB/LB – Injury None
Belgium still did not look anywhere near their best in the narrow 1-0 win over Russia on Sunday, though their performance in the final ten minutes should give Marc Wilmots a lot of hope moving forward.
His squad have already achieved qualification with a game to spare but any thoughts of resting players may be quelled by the fact they could still surrender top spot with a loss here, as long as Algeria beat Russia in the other game. Wilmots’ thoughts may simply come to who to protect from suspension, in that case, with Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Axel Witsel all sitting one booking away from a ban. Anthony Vanden Borre could replace the former at right-back, with Nicolas Lombaerts capable of deputising at left-back, while there are a plethora of options in central midfield with Moussa Dembele the most likely.
Thomas Vermaelen left the Russia match with a knee injury that looks set to keep him out for the remainder of the tournament and maybe well beyond so will not come into contention here, but Divock Origi will be hopeful of a start ahead of Romelu Lukaku in attack having been impressive off the bench once more and finding the net this time. Kevin Mirallas will hold similar hopes of replacing Dries Mertens down the right but may be kept back as an impact substitute again, while it would be a surprise to see key men like Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Daniel Van Buyten, Vincent Kompany or Thibaut Courtois rotated at all here.
Bench (from): Bossut GK, Mignolet GK, Vanden Borre RB/LB, Ciman CB, Lombaerts CB, Defour CM, Dembele CM/AM/LW, Chadli RW/LW/AM, Januzaj RW/LW/SS, Mirallas RW/LW, Lukaku ST
Tactical Keys to the Game:
Belgium have already gained qualification thanks to their two narrow wins, but could lose top spot in the group if South Korea beat them here and Algeria beat Russia. With Germany still looking likely winners of Group G this should provide enough motivation to put on a professional performance here, while they will simply be keen to play better in general.
Football Form Labs Betting Preview:
South Korea (37) v Belgium (17), Thursday 26th June 21:00 BST
South Korea must win this game by at least two goals and then hope that results elsewhere go in there favour but while mathematically still possible the 40/1 being offered on their qualification looks a very poor bet.
Belgium have officially qualified and just need a point to wrap up the group. While their performances so far have been fairly tepid it is worth noting that they’ve faced some hot and tiring conditions. The temperature in Sao Paulo should be a bit more accommodating and significantly they will have travelled almost a third of the distance between games as South Korea.
Belgium couldn’t have picked a better opponent to give their forwards some confidence with South Korea having looked very shaky at the back against Algeria and their goalkeeper a potential disaster throughout the tournament.
Korea’s form was a doubt coming into the tournament as they had slipped eight places in our rankings over the last 12 months and they’ve now lost five of their last seven matches whilst conceding four times on three occasions. Furthermore, they’ve lost four of their last seven matches against European sides with five of the games having at least three goals.
Belgium may not have hit top form yet but they’ve now won five consecutive matches and 10 of their last 12 competitive games. Since 1974 there have been 14 final group matches at World Cups, Euros, Copa Americas and African Cup of Nations where one side has won their first two games and the other team has picked up just one point. On 13 of the 14 occasions the team with two wins made it three and eight of the victories were by more than one goal. Furthermore, when they were also the higher ranked side it was 11 wins out of 11 with seven by more than one goal.
Belgium look like they will be far too strong for South Korea and should advance with a comfortable win to give them maximum points.