With the draw just four short days away, it seems a good time to start looking at who our possible opponents will be. So, today we will start with the big boys. Pot 1. The seeded teams. Included is a brief rundown of all eight teams, the last time South Korea played them, that result, and the ranking (amongst all 32 teams) given to that nation by the three writers here at the Tavern.
*Roy has been very busy and not had time to give his rankings, the post will be updated when he has time to do so* Updated with Roy’s rankings
Pot 1 – Seeded Teams
Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina, Belgium, Columbia, Uruguay, Switzerland
Korea can face any team from pot A as the only rule on the draw limits the number of UEFA teams in any group at two.
Brazil is, of course, the hosts and will get drawn automatically into group A. Brazil is an interesting proposition as being hosts can be both blessing and curse. You have the home support, but in a country as demanding as Brazil that can be bad as a poor performance could have the fans calling for blood. How Brazil deals with the pressure will be key. Brazil’s other possible concern is the heavy dependency they have on Neymar. The team seems to lack that cutting edge when their talented forward isn’t around. Brazil is a team I would like to avoid.
Last Meeting: International Friendly (2013)
Result: Brazil 2 South Korea 0
Writer Ranking: Jae (1) Jinseok (1.5) Roy (1)
Spain is another team that should probably be avoided for obvious reasons. While Spain don’t look as invincible as they have in the past, the reigning world and European champions still have quality by the boat load. Striker remains a problem, the midfield is older, and there’s the small problem of captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas only playing in Champions League matches for Real Madrid. Nevertheless, Spain are more than capable of defending their title. I think avoiding Spain would be good, but not the end of the world if we drew them as they tend to be slow starters. Getting them in the group may be more favorable then meeting in the knockout rounds.
Last Meeting: International Friendly (2012)
Result: Spain 4 South Korea 1
Writer Ranking: Jae (2) Jinseok (1.5) Roy (2)
Sounding a bit broken record like, but Argentina is another team that would probably be best avoided until later. Argentina’s attack is absolutely loaded with the likes of Leo Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, Ezequiel Lavezzi, and Angel Di Maria. The defense remains a bit more of a question mark, but it’s improved in recent years. The only benefit of playing Argentina in the group stage is that you would likely have the support of the Brazil fans, and would avoid them in the round of 16 should Korea advance. Still, I think I’d be happier if Korea avoided a draw with them.
Last meeting: 2010 World Cup Group Stage
Result: Argentina 4 South Korea 1
Writer Ranking: Jae (4) Jinseok (4) Roy (4)
The scares keep coming with Germany. Germany has seemed poised to win a major trophy for the past several tournaments, only to fall agonizingly close to the end. Knocked out by Italy at the 2006 World Cup in the semifinals. Lost the finals to Spain at Euro 08, and again in the semis at World Cup 2010. Then losing to Italy in the semis at Euro 2012. Germany, like Spain, seems to have found a never ending source of attacking talent with young players like Mario Gotze, Julian Draxler, and Marco Reus turning in big displays for club. But also like Spain, Germany has questions at striker and in defense. Gotze has been increasingly used as a false 9 with the national side as Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose struggle. The defense is shaky at times, although Manuel Neuer can be counted as one of the top keepers in world football. Another team best to avoid.
Last meeting: International Friendly (2004)
Result: South Korea 3 Germany 1
Writer Ranking: Jae (3) Jinseok (3) Roy (3)
Colombia is a quiet number four in FIFA’s rankings. The team doesn’t have many “big name” players, but they are a very good team. One big name that is there is Monaco striker Radamel Falcao. Other quality players are Inter’s Fredy Guarin, Fiorentina’s Juan Cuardado, and Porto’s Jackson Martinez. Colombia had a fairly comfortable qualifying campaign finishing two points behind 1st place Argentina. This summer will be Colombia’s first World Cup since 1998, and the country hasn’t made it to the knockout rounds since Italia ’90. Yet, don’t be surprised if they spring an upset or two this summer. A Colombia draw wouldn’t be good, but it’s not the end of the world bad.
Last Meeting: never met
Writer Ranking: Jae (6) Jinseok (7) Roy (15)
Belgium is another sneakily good team. If you haven’t seen them, then watch out! Just a glance down their team sheet and the fact that they easily topped their group (that contained Croatia, Serbia, Scotland, and Wales) isn’t such a surprise. In goal they have the best young keeper (and possibly one of the best in the world) in Thibaut Courtois. Solid center backs in Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen, and Jan Vertonghen. Talented midfielders in Eden Hazard, Mousa Dembele, Axel Witsel, and Kevin De Bruyne. And two bull forwards in Romelu Lukaku and Christen Benteke. A slight worry for Belgium will be their last two matches (against Colombia and Japan) where they lost both matches in Belgium. Belgium would be an extremely difficult opponent, but you’d think Korea may have a very small, outside chance at beating them or at least taking a point. The team generally is quite young, and that inexperience at the World Cup (Belgium hasn’t qualified since 2002) could be important.
Last Meeting: International Friendly (1999)
Result: South Korea 1 Belgium 2
Writer Ranking: Jae (8) Jinseok (8) Roy (6)
Uruguay is an interesting possible opponent. On paper, they have a very good team and are particularly dangerous in attack with the likes of Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani. The team won the Copa America in 2011 and finished 4th at the Confederation Cup last summer. Yet, the team struggled in qualifying, finishing 5th and needed to play Jordan in the intercontinental playoff. The defense was a problem as Uruguay conceded 25 goals in qualification. Uruguay would represent a stiff test in the groups, but their defensive struggles could be exploited (particularly their occasional lack of pace).
Last Meeting: World Cup 2010
Result: South Korea 1 Uruguay 2
Writer Ranking: Jae (11) Jinseok (12) Roy (12)
The last team in pot 1, and the one most are probably hoping for, is Switzerland. Since we just played Switzerland recently, I won’t bore everyone by saying it again. Suffice it to say, the Swiss, when they’re on top of their game, represent a compact side that has some creative attacking talent. Deserving of a top seed? Yes, based on their competitive record, but no, based on their talent level. An ideal draw for Korea.
Last meeting: International Friendly (2013)
Result: South Korea 2 Switzerland 1
Writer Ranking: Jae (14) Jinseok (19) Roy (19)
Tomorrow we look at pot 2.