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World Cup: Russia, South Korea set for clash

Teams from Russia and South Korea hold final news conferences and practices prior to their World Cup match in Cuiaba.

CUIABA: Russia and South Korea are set to open up their World Cup Group H competition on Tuesday in Cuiaba.

It is the teams' first match together since Russia defeated South Korea, 2-1, in a friendly in November 2013.

Both teams practiced Monday evening at the Pantanal stadium, giving Russia's coach, the famed Italian player Fabio Capello, and South Korea's coach, the country's esteemed former captain Hong Myung-bo, a last-minute chance to make changes ahead of the match.

Capello has made defender Vasili Berezutskiy his captain for Russia's first World Cup appearance since 2002.

"It is a big honour for me to be appointed the captain," Berezutskiy said. "It's a big responsibility and I hope that I will be a good example for everyone on the pitch and off the pitch."

Both Capello and Berezutskiy are confident going into the match, even without Russia's creative midfielder Roman Shirokov, who was ruled out due to an injury.

"Of course, Shirokov is a big loss for us. However, the Russian team is strong as a team. It is a collective effort," Berezutskiy said. "This is why we shouldn't be too fixated on the fact that his absence here will influence our game. We have good substitutes. It's not such a big problem."

South Korea is coming off a 4-0 loss to Ghana in a World Cup warm-up match earlier this month. After that loss in Miami, the team flew to Iguazu, Brazil to recover before coming to Cuiaba.

Coach Hong Myung-bo deflected any criticism that his team was inexperienced, calling their youth an advantage.

"Our players are very young. We have a young team. So that's why they're very energetic. That is true," Hong said. "But compared to their youth, I think they are not, they don't make rash judgements, and they make very wise judgements and decisions. Not only that, our players will lead the future of Korean soccer. They are the future."

The team has won their last three World Cup openers, beating Poland 1-0 in 2002, Togo 2-1 in 2006 and Greece 2-1 in 2010 and hope to continue its streak on Tuesday at the Pantanal arena.

That 2002 team reached the semi-finals under Hong's leadership as captain. When asked to compare the two teams, the coach said he could not.

"It's actually difficult to say whether they're stronger or work harder than the 2002 team. I'm the coach of this team and I fully believe in this team," Hong said. "In that aspect, I have believed in them from the beginning and I will continue to believe in them and that will not change."

Capello enjoyed some satisfaction in pointing out that goal-line technology that did not exist at the 2010 World Cup had already been beneficial to a team at the Brazil finals.

Capello was on the receiving end along with his 2010 England team of a bad refereeing decision in South Africa when a goal by Frank Lampard was disallowed although the ball bounced half a metre inside the German goal before coming out again.

England, 2-1 down at the time, went on to lose the second round clash 4-1 and were knocked out of the competition with Capello taking criticism for his team's mediocre performances in South Africa.

On Sunday, France became the first team to benefit from the use of goal-line technology at a World Cup.

France had their second goal in a 3-0 win over Honduras in Group E in Porto Alegre confirmed by the video referee after the ball had gone a few centimetres over the line off goalkeeper Noel Valladares.

Asked what changes there were for him coming to this tournament in charge of Russia after his England experience four years ago, Capello said: "I didn't change them. It was finally FIFA that changed them. You saw the result yesterday (referring to the French)."

"My team and I, England, were only penalised and everyone knows that going from 2-0 to 2-2, for those who understand football, there's a big difference. And to go to the break, having got back in the score (getting back to 2-2), but this served to bring in the new technology. But we paid the price for this technology."

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