Russia and South Korea played out an even 1-1 draw on Tuesday evening, and Igor Akinfeev is sure to hit the headlines after committing the fumble of all fumbles in the Russian goal.
The CSKA Moscow stalwart practically threw a long-range shot into his own net to give the Taeguk Warriors the lead, and super-sub Aleksandr Kerzhakov was required to rescue a point for Fabio Capello's men.
Formations & XIs
Russia lined up in a 4-4-1-1-ish shape with Oleg Shatov just off Aleksandr Kokorin up front. Viktor Fayzulin assumed the role of midfield general and partnered with Denis Glushakov centrally.
South Korea utilised their usual 4-2-3-1 formation, with Son Heung-min on the left, Lee Chung-Yong on the right and Ki Sung-yueng as the central playmaker.
Must Not Lose
Both teams completed a horrendous opening 45 minutes to their FIFA World Cup 2014 campaigns, acting like two sides who truly did not want to lose their first game.
With Belgium a near-lock to finish top of the group and a dog-fight ensuing between three sides for second place, that's fair enough, but the crowd in Cuiaba quickly grew restless with Russia's slow tempo and South Korea's wasteful nature in the final third.
Son was the spark offensively, dropping into pockets of space off the left flank and in the central zones to collect the ball and run, but his end product was shocking, and he didn't test right-back Andrey Eshchenko nearly enough.
Ki's impressive pass completion percentages, despite getting his side nowhere, were the talk of the half.
Missing Roman Shirokov
For Russia, long, straight balls were hit incessantly in Kokorin's direction, few of which he pulled down and used, and the absence of Roman Shirokov quickly began to ring true.
The national captain, 30, had emerged as the key player in Fabio Capello's setup but pulled out of the squad due to injury. His box-to-box nature, ability to take control of a game and dictate the rhythm were all sorely missed.
Denisov has been poor, no invention, really lazy in possession— Jack Rathborn (@jackrathborn) June 17, 2014
Fayzulin did a poor job in his absence, and Igor Denisov did little other than pass it sideways or backward after coming on.
Capello looked to his bench to shake things up.
In Alan Dzagoev We Trust
South Korea went ahead via a ridiculous howler by Igor Akinfeev, but Russia had been in the ascendancy in the minutes preceding the strike.
Alan Dzagoev's introduction changed the pace of the game, as the young Russian No. 10—top scorer at Euro 2012—breathed fresh life into the fixture.
His willingness to run with the ball, square up defenders and penetrate the box changed the dynamic of Capello's system, and it was his great work fighting his way into the box that allowed fellow substitute Kerzhakov to steal in and grab the equaliser.
Russia looked far more likely to score in the closing moments than their opponents, and Capello was delighted with the reaction of his players.
"We ran a lot first half and were very tired. They scored...but the reaction from my players was really good," he told Brazilian TV live after the game. "We had [good] chances to score second goal."
Capello also praised Kerzhakov, labeling him a "fantastic player who always gets the chance to score goals."
With Yuri Zhirkov massively underwhelming on the left wing, Kokorin may slide over to make room for the record-breaker, who will be telling his boss to start him for the next fixture.
For South Korea, it was a little better than expected, as their defence held up well. Left-back Yun Suk-young caught the eye, and Son was superb throughout.