Russia and South Korea split the points in each sides Group H opener with a 1-1 draw. An uneventful first half was followed by a frenzied second stanza which witnessed both teams scoring and manufacturing several other chances.
South Korea Manager Hong Myung-Bo, who captained his country to a semifinal appearance in the 2002 World Cup set his team up in a defensive posture and for most of the match they were able to keep the highly fancied Russians, managed by Fabio Capello at bay. Despite the low expectations many fans had entering this tournament, the Koreans looked hungry and eager to make an impression.
A stunning mistake from Russian Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev handed South Korea a lead in in the 68th minute. Akinfeev mishandled a highly speculative effort by Lee Keun-Ho. It was the second successive World Cup where Capello’s first-choice keeper had made a fatal error in the opener. In 2010 when managing England, Capello saw Rob Green mishandle a shot by Clint Dempsey of the USA and that match also ended in a 1-1 draw.
With the Koreans up 1-0, Capello turned to Aleksandr Kerzhakov, the only Russian player with World Cup experience. Minutes after coming on Kerzhakov equalized for the Russians after a muffed South Korean clearance. For the remaining fifteen minutes of the match both sides chased a winner but ultimately did not really test either keeper.
Following Belgium’s 2-1 victory over Algeria earlier in the day, both sides were looking to claim all three points to keep pace in the group. Now advancement out of the group for both sides might depend on who can get a point off the highly favored Belgians.