World Cup Odds and Picks: South Korea Vs. Greece Predictions
by Robert Ferringo - 6/10/2010
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Greece enters the 2010 World Cup as the No. 13 team in the FIFA World Rankings. Their opening game opponent, South Korea, will begin play in South Africa at No. 47. But don’t let the rankings fool you: this isn’t a significant mismatch on paper or on the pitch.
Instead, it’s an intriguing matchup of two very experienced teams with two very distinct styles. And in a parity-driven group this match could go a long way to determining who advances.
South Korea (a.k.a. “The Good Korea”) will take on Greece at 7:30 a.m. EST on Saturday, June 12 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa for the opening game of Group B play. In a lot of ways the equality in this game echoes the wide-open makeup of this group, which includes favorite Argentina but fellow contender Nigeria.
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The Greeks are leaving behind a nation that is overrun with a financial crisis and political upheaval. The social woes spilled onto the pitch earlier this year, with labor issues and lockouts troubling the club ranks. But a trip to South Africa could serve as a great distraction for both the nation and the players themselves.
Greece is as gritty as they come and they should be set for a peak effort in this year’s Cup. This is only the second World Cup appearance in the national team’s history. But over the last decade the Greeks have shown that they can more than hold their own against the top teams in Europe, clawing their way to a No. 8 FIFA World Ranking in 2008.
Defense is the calling card of this Greek program. This team can struggle to score at times but they are always known for being stingy in their own third. During a 15-game stretch from October 2007 to October 2008 they surrendered just 11 goals. And that included efforts against Spain, Sweden and Portugal. When they are at their best they suffocate any chances at their end and rely on a quick and relentless counterattack to produce their own offense.
South Korea is a very interesting team and is akin to a very good mid-major team in college basketball heading into the NCAA Tournament. South Korea has been the dominant force in East Asian soccer over the last two decades and they are setting themselves up for their seventh consecutive trip to the World Cup Finals.
Like Greece, the South Korea roster is full of experienced, hardened veterans that have performed at the highest levels of the sport. South Korea boasts several members from the squad that played in the 2002 World Cup. That year the Taegeuk Warriors caught the magic of the host nation and advanced to the semifinals, becoming the first Asian team to ever advance that far.
South Korea also put up a game effort in Germany in the 2006 Final. They earned their first Cup win on foreign soil by beating Togo and then played to a draw with eventual runner-up France. However, they were dispatched in a highly controversial 2-0 loss to Switzerland. In that game they were denied a penalty kick on a handball and also gave up a goal when the referee ignored an offside play on a Swiss that led to a score.
These are two of the most experienced teams in the field and both have shown glimmers of top-tier success over the last eight years. Whether it was South Korea’s run to the World Cup semifinals in 2002 or Greece’s stunning and historic Euro 2004 win (they were 120-to-1 underdogs at the outset) each of these programs has shown that it can compete on the biggest stage.
But how will they match up with each other?
South Korea earned a 1-0 victory over Greece in a friendly in February in 2007 in London. Greece also recently played North Korea to a 2-2 draw in a friendly this May. In both games the smaller, faster, more energetic Koreans were able to find seems in the large, physical Greek defense.
Korea Republic vs. Greece World Cup Odds:
Greece enters this game as one of the slimmest favorites on the board. They aren’t giving up any goals and are -150 to win without the Draw. South Korea is a slight +115 favorite. Betting with the Draw, Greece is on the board at +135, South Korea is at +190 and the Draw is posted at +220. The total for this game is solid at 2.0.
Korea Republic vs. Greece Picks and Predictions:
South Korea Will Win If: It can get on the board early. Korea is a team that relies on relentless pressure by its forwards. These crafty scorers just need small seams to squeeze of shots and they could put a ton of pressure on a feeble Greek offense with an early goal. This South Korea team may be the most experienced of any in the field. Five players on their roster have earned over 80 caps with the national team and three others have 55 or more. That includes 37-year-old goalie Lee Woon-jae, who has earned 129 caps and is appearing in his fourth World Cup. This is the last hurrah for this prideful group of footballers. This team won’t rattle and could find a way to collect a point in this matchup.
Greece Will Win If: They can score. The Grecian defense is world-renowned. But at some point this group will have to put the ball in the net. They were overreliant on forward Theo Garkas in qualifying, but he was in top form and actually had the most goals of any player (10) in Europe. Greece employs a 4-3-3 and at times seems content to keep six or seven players back. But when they break out, transitioning from defense to offense, they are at their most dangerous. This team will be bigger and stronger than Korea, and they will be used to the Dutch-influenced attack that South Korea employs. They need to hold firm and take advantage of their opportunities if they want to get a win.
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