With the 2014 FIFA World Cup firmly underway, we bring you the next in an in-depth series of match previews that centre on tactics, team selections and predicted XIs.
The final debut of the group stage is upon us! How did that sneak up so fast? Last but not least, it's Russia vs. South Korea on Tuesday.
How Russia Will Shape Up
Russia were rocked by the news that talisman Roman Shirokov, the captain of the side and chief goalscorer from midfield, will miss the World Cup due to injury.
It brings a lack of creativity, flash and overall pizzazz to the fore. While manager Fabio Capello fell out with Alan Dzagoev during qualifying, Shirokov's absence may force his reintroduction.
Russia used a 4-3-3 throughout qualifying but may switch to a 4-2-3-1 with Dzagoev in the side. There's still a Zenit St. Petersburg/CSKA Moscow spine to the XI, with Aleksandr Kerzhakov, Viktor Fayzulin, Sergei Ignashevich and Igor Akinfeev to keep things tight, though.
The full-backs, once seemingly the pride of the team, have cooled off alarmingly. As Aleksandr Anyukov has dropped out of focus, Aleksandr Kokorin's energy up front has come in.
How South Korea Will Shape Up
South Korea, like Russia, are a team who are happy to have possession of the ball but tend to surrender it to bigger, stronger sides.
That means their qualifying form is difficult to project, as against minnow Asian sides they invariably dominated and created openings by way of the ball always returning to their feet.
Everything will move through Ki Sung-yueng in the middle of the park, and his proviso is to move the ball quickly to the flanks where South Korea's two best players—Son Heung-min and Lee Chung-yong—can take hold of it and travel.
Russia's Fayzulin was full of praise for them as a team, saying, via FIFA.com (h/tFourFourTwo): "I liked the way they moved. I liked how sharp they were. They are disciplined. As a footballer, I find it hard to play against them."
Park Chu-young has been hit-and-miss as a centre-forward, sadly, and Kim Shin-wook is a gargantuan Plan B. Scoring and defending are problems for this side.
2 Tactical Clashes
1. Possession Under Pressure
Both sides will try to retain possession of the ball, yet both sides will also press while out of possession.
Given that neither side are considered elite in the keep-ball department, it could make for an interesting matchup, as whoever makes mistakes will concede opportunities.
South Korea as a team have good energy and, as Fayzulin alluded, remain well organised if only for show in defence. Kokorin leads a buzzing press for Capello's men, so the advantage here will be decided on the pitch.
2. Clear-Cut Chances
There are obvious strengths to both of these sides, and both will be able to use them to full advantage to create clear-cut chances against one another.
Russia are weaker in the wide areas once past the wingers, and the smart money is on Lee and Son having a field day carrying the ball and taking them one-on-one.
Likewise, Russia can use the aggressiveness and directness of Dzagoev and the clean, proficient runs of Kerzhakov to find joy through the centre against South Korea's suspect centre-backs.
It's there for the taking for the team who manipulates the pitch better.
Bleacher Report will do a tactical preview and review of every single 2014 FIFA World Cup game. Stay tuned to this link and check it every day for more.
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