THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

wsc328 previewThe 2014 Algeria team are seen as more talented than their 2010 counterparts but younger and less experienced. Les Verts have a poor record against non-African opposition, the 2-0 win over Slovenia in March being the best result since they held European powerhouses Luxembourg and England to goalless draws in 2010. South Koreans believe this is the most favourable group they've yet had – a sentiment shared by their three opponents – and a survey suggested that more than 85 per cent think the team will get to the last 16.

Coach Hong Myung-Bo is popular, being Korea's most-capped player and captain of the team in the 2002 semis-finals; he coached the 2012 Olympic bronze medallists before taking over the senior side last year. By contrast Vahid Halilhodzic does not have a good relationship with the Algerian FA and is not liked by journalists. There is a rumour that Rabah Saâdane, coach four years ago, is being lined up to as a replacement.

Ooredoo, a mobile phone operator who sponsor the Algerian FA, have signed contracts with various players, but local commercial interest in this World Cup is less intense than in 2010, when they beat fierce local rivals Egypt in a play-off to qualify having been absent from the finals for 24 years. In addition, football will have a serious rival this summer: Ramadan is due to start around June 29, when fasting becomes more important than sport.

Sunderland's Ki Sung-Yueng is the busiest Korean player in terms of top endorsements. He was signed up to promote Gillette razors and has sold the drink Powerade on TV. Before that he joined his then Celtic team-mate Cha Du-Ri in a commercial for LG refrigerators. Sung-Yueng and Koo Ja-Cheol of Mainz are the best interviewees, with the younger players an improvement on what had been tradition among Korean players of talking as though reading from a script. We may see a rehearsed goal celebration if the team score against Russia.

There was public outrage when figure skater Kim Yuna, the biggest sporting star in the country along with Park Ji-Sung, controversially came second to Russia's Adelina Sotnikova in the Sochi Winter Olympics. Coach Myung-Bo is said to be concerned about any psychological effect having a celebration prepared might have, but was part of the team that staged a celebration against the US in 2002 that mocked a Winter Olympic gold controversially denied to a South Korean speed skater.

The three major channels in South Korea will show matches at the same time. Former Leverkusen striker Cha Bum-Kun has long been the country's most popular commentator. While his channel had exclusive rights to the tournament in 2010, he will face a challenge from stars of 2002, such as Lee Young-Pyo. Meanwhile, there's no guarantee that any of the games will be beamed, legally, into Algerian homes. Al Jazeera, who own the regional World Cup rights, are still smarting from having their coverage of Les Verts' play-off qualifier against Burkina Faso last October pirated by Algerian state TV. Most fans will wait to see whether the public broadcaster is going to carry on hacking into Al Jazeera's signal; if not, they will follow French, German or Swiss TV.

All 2,000 World Cup travel packages made available for Algerians in 2013 were quickly bought, with the state promising to subsidise tickets and transport. Independent travellers will find it hard as Algerian credit cards are not recognised by other countries, so buying online is a non-starter and the Algerian dinar isn't valid abroad either. For those watching the games, the favourite song is likely to be one from 2010, a mixture of French and English "One, two, three, viva l'Algérié". David Winter & Yeon Sik Yoo

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