Group H contenders Russia and South Korea have played out a competitive 1-1 draw in their 2014 FIFA World Cup match at the Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba this morning; also registering as the final two nations to open their tournament accounts.
Entering the match as resounding favourites, Russian coach Fabio Capello fielded arguably a full strength side; clearly wanting to leave nothing to chance in a match which was widely expected to be one-way traffic.
One of the leading contenders of the four qualified Asian nations, South Korea have developed a habit of performing well when offered the ‘underdogs’ tag, and once again lived up to their reputation when launching an attacking raid form the game’s opening whistle.
Forced back into their own half for the next 20 minutes, Korea appeared composed and nerve-free whilst defending attempt after attempt on their net from their Northern European counterparts, and looked slick on the few occasions they were offered a counter; appearing to lack only a final touch.
Returning the favour in the lead-up to the break in what was arguably the most well-contested and even half of football in any game through the 2014 FIFA World Cup so-far, 0-0 seemed a fair result at the conclusion of 45 minutes of play.
Returning to the pitch in equally positive form, the Russians and South Koreans continued to trade blows; running end to end and testing each other from distance after both glovemen had earlier fondled what appeared to be clinical saves.
Charging from the centre of the pitch and against the general run of play, Korean midfielder Lee Keunho finally broke the deadlock in the 68th minute, finishing off an impressive solo performance that was helped into the net by another poor effort from Russian shot-stopper Akinfee.
Not to be left in the dark for long, Russia immediately laid the pressure back on the South Koreans, charging towards the goal of Jung and launching several unsuccessful shots before Alexander Kerzhakov finally found the back of the net in a mess of attackers and defenders.
Continuing to press for the winner over the match’s final 15 minutes, neither Russia nor South Korea could break the opposition’s ranks again, claiming a point each to sit equal second in Group H behind Belgium, who earlier secured a scrappy 2-1 victory over Algeria.
Russia will face their fellow-European entrants on June 23rd; a match for which they are currently offered little chance for success at generous $4 odds at Ladbrokes.com.au while South Korea will be aiming to step up their chances of qualification when taking on Algeria at a favourites’ quote of $2.25.