Soccer-No crystal ball necessary for Korean Octopus


By Steve Keating

PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil, June 21 (Reuters) - Lee Young-pyo, a former South Korean player turned broadcaster, has created a stir in his homeland for his uncanny success at predicting World Cup winners in Brazil.

Lee has become so accurate with this tips that Koreans have dubbed him "Young-pyo the Octopus," after the clairvoyant cephalopod named Paul that became a global celebrity for picking winners at the 2010 World Cup.

But neither Lee nor his former team mate and now coach of the Korean squad Hong Myung-bo were going on a limb to make any prognostications about Sunday's Group H clash with Algeria.

After boldly predicting the downfall of Spain and several other games the furthest Lee would come to calling Sunday's match was to say: "If Korea plays against Algeria as it did against Russia, Korea will win."

Hong, who captained the Koreans on their glorious run to 2002 World Cup semi-finals on home soil, was even less forthcoming.

"I can't say whether we are going to lose or win but what I can say is that of course we are going to play to win," said Hong ahead of his squad's final practice session on Saturday.

"In order to get through the group phase we need the points and right now we have just one."

Despite a lack of clarity from the two Koreans, no crystal ball is needed to understand the importance of Sunday's showdown in this gritty port city.

With Belgium sitting atop the group standings and Russia and Korea joint second after an opening 1-1 draw, Algeria will be fighting for their World Cup lives at Beira Rio stadium.

The 'Taeguk Warriors' also view the contest as a must-win. A victory over the Algerians would put Korea's fate into their own hands with Belgium looming as their final group fixture.

Although defending has been Korea's Achilles Heel, Hong seemed more focused on his attacking options heading.

A team that plays with plenty of offensive flair and ambition, Hong could keep Park Chu-young as his main striker against Algeria or bring in Kim Shin-wook or Lee Keun-ho, a sergeant in the Korean army who came on as a substitute to score against Russia.

"We haven't decided yet, we will finish today's training and then afterwards we will decide," said Hong.

"In order to win of course we have to score a goal. That is the most important thing.

"There will be opportunities for us to score but can we take advantage of those opportunities."

The Koreans will be wary of a speedy Algerian side who scored first and gave the Belgians a real game before losing 2-1.

Hong said he expects the same intensity out of the "Desert Foxes" but a vastly different approach.

"Defence-wise I think they were a little bit afraid of Belgium so they focused a lot on their defence," said Hong.

"I saw the match Algeria played with Belgium and the Belgium team was very defensive as was the Algerian team and I don't think that is how they will play with us.

"The Algerian team has the same formation of the Russian team but overall the way they carry out the game is very different." (Editing by Ed Osmond)

What to Read Next