Bookies Give Korea Underdog Status at World Cup

Korea is the second-least likely team of its group to advance to the round of 16 at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, according to leading British bookmaker.

Sports betting company William Hill predicted on Tuesday that the odds of Korea qualifying now stand at 15/8, meaning that a bet of W80,000 would net a return of W150,000 if it were to finish among the top two to move to the knockout stages of the tournament.

William Hill forecast that Belgium has the greatest chance of advancing with odds of 1/6, followed by Russia (2/5), Korea, and Algeria (4/1).

International media also skeptical about Korea's chances of making a good run at its eighth straight World Cup. British footballer-turned-pundit Gary Lineker, who famously scored the most number of goals at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, wrote in a contributing article to the BBC that Korea looks "far weaker than in recent years - of the 32 teams heading to Brazil, only Australia have a lower FIFA ranking." He added, "They rode their luck to reach the semi-finals on home soil in 2002."

Belgium's La Libre praised the strength of individual players but said the team does not have enough grit or lasting power to control a game for the full 90 minutes. It saw two beacons of hope in the form of young midfielder Ki Sung-yueng, who is "virtually indispensible" at English Premier League side Sunderland at the age of just 24, and Park Jong-woo, who seems to have "three lungs."

However, it added that Korea benefited from an army of red t-shirt wearing home fans in 2002, when the country co-hosted the World Cup with Japan and made its historic run to the semifinals. The fans amounted to a de facto "12th player" for the Korean team at that time, and one that it will not benefit from in Brazil, the daily added. It also drew attention to how its partner BetFirst has only given Korea a 1/10 chance of beating Belgium to top Group H this time around.

Others are speaking more highly of Korea's potential, with Russia's RBC TV reporting that Korea could emerge as its biggest threat in the group stage. While Korean players' speed and fighting spirit made up for their lack of individual skill in 2002, the team now includes a lot of Europe-based players with great technical prowess such as Lee Chung-yong, Ki Sung-yueng and Son Heung-min, it said.

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 11, 2013 10:15 KST