As Korea is the lowest-ranked team in its World Cup group, speculation is mounting as to whether it will advance to the knockout rounds of the competition. FIFA ranks the country world No. 61, putting it at a disadvantage against group rivals Belgium (11), Russia (No. 22) and Algeria (No. 26).
Most foreign media see Korea as a relatively poor prospect. U.S. sports network ESPN projected that Belgium has a 79.2 percent chance of escaping the group stage, while Russia has a 73 percent chance, Korea 36.7 percent and Algeria 11 percent.
ESPN viewed Belgium as the strongest in the group, but said that Korea should not be underestimated due to its lineup of talented players like Kim Bo-kyung, Ki Sung-yueng and Son Heung-min.
In FIFA's analysis of the group on its official website, the sport's world governing body said, "Group H looks on paper to be one of the most evenly weighted sections, though European duo Belgium and Russia will kick off as slight favorites against Algeria and [Korea]."
It added that it's not easy to predict which team will make it to the next round as Korea and Algeria also have extensive World Cup experience.
KBS sports commentator Han Jun-hee said, "[Korean players] should strengthen their defensive skills and work on goal-scoring tactics in the upcoming months."
Lee Yong-soo, a professor of Sejong University, said that if Korea wins its first match against Russia, and Belgium beats Russia in the following game, Korea will be better positioned to gain entry to the round of 16.