Russia and South Korea begin their 2014 World Cup campaign in Cuiaba, with both nations seeking a win to keep pace with Belgium, who defeated Algeria earlier in the day in Group H action.
Entering the World Cup, many experts expected Belgium to run away with the group, with Russia and South Korea battling for the runner-up spot.
Russia is the only nation in the World Cup with a roster comprised solely of domestic-based players. However, they have a high-profile head coach: Fabio Capello. Few coaches in the tournament have more experience than Capello, who has served as a manager for AC Milan, Real Madrid, Juventus, and most recently, England.
The 67-year-old has a reputation for being no-nonsense. Such a personality is probably needed for a country that has never advanced out of a group stage.
"He is tough and demanding. Discipline is the most important thing for him," midfielder Oleg Shatov told Russian Football’s official website about Capello.
"If a player is standing in the defensive wall and turns around, he'll say 'I will not tolerate that in my teams. If you say you're scared, you can leave and I'll use another player.’”
Capello is expected to rely on a pair of key young players in the tournament. Georgi Shchennikov, 23, is a promising left back, and 22-year-old striker Aleksandr Kokorin has been in good form.
But 34-year-old central defender Sergei Ignashevich might be the most valuable. The veteran has improved under Capello’s leadership.
South Korea, who reached the semifinals as a host-nation in 2002, is expected to be aggressive against Russia despite struggles in friendlies leading up to World Cup. But head coach and former Korean legend Myung-Bo Hong has plenty of talent at his disposal.
Multiple players have experience in England and Germany. Hong is expected to use Swansea midfielder Sung-Yueng Ki, as well as a partnership of former Arsenal man Chu-Young Park and Bayer Leverkusen’s and Heung-Min Son.
Other players that could play a crucial role in the tournament include defenders Jeong-Ho Hong of Augsburg, Joo-Ho Park of Mainz, and midfielders Ja-Cheol Koo of Mainz and Bolton Wanderers’ Chung-Yong Lee.
With Algeria a longshot to advance, Russia and South Korea will both make a major push to win their opener.
Start Time: Tuesday, 6 p.m. EST
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Online Stream Info: A live online stream is available at Watch ESPN here.
Betting Odds: Russia -300; South Korea +240
Over/Under: 2 goals
Prediction: Russia over South Korea, 2-1