South Korea: +440
With Belgium the clear favourites in Group H, and Algeria the most likely wooden spoons, this match could well be decisive in regards to who qualifies for the last 16. Russia and South Korea are two nations that have appeared regularly in the World Cup but have failed to make much of a mark on the competition so far. South Korea of course had that wonderful run to the semi-finals as joint hosts in 2002 but now in their eighth successive finals perhaps they should be looking at more regular success.
However, their limp qualifying campaign – where they fell short against the likes of Lebanon, Uzbekistan and Iran – doesn’t fill me with much confidence. Their main attacking threat will come from the flanks where they have two fantastic wingers in Lee Chung-yong and Son Heung-min – the latter having had a great season in the Bundesliga. But a lack of real quality elsewhere, the fact they lost 4-0 to Ghana in their last warm-up game and are without a win in five means I will be opposing them.
Russia may have failed to make it out of the group stage of the World Cup since the break-up of the Soviet Union but they look well placed to do so this time in a fairly weak group. The injury to captain Roman Shirokov may be a blow but the fact the Russians are unbeaten in ten games and conceded just five goals in qualification makes them justifiable strong favourites. Russia had a fairly formidable defensive record in qualifying with the hugely experienced goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev protected by centre-halves Vasili Berezutskiy and Sergei Ignashevich – all of CSKA Moscow – forming a good understanding. Russia’s back four may be fairly immobile but make up for their lack of pace with physicality and positioning and should be able to keep South Korea’s out of form attacking line at bay. Although Aleksandr Kerzhakov and Aleksandr Kokorin may chip in with a few goals here and there, Russia lacks a really potent centre-forward and therefore under 2.5 looks likely, but is at short odds of -155.
I feel Fabio Capello will be able to direct the Russians to grinding out a good result here, possibly a 1-0 or 2-0 scoreline.
+1.92 units (3-2)