Russia and South Korea open up their FIFA World Cup accounts on Tuesday in a matchup that will most likely decide the second spot in Group H. The Russians are coming into the match without their star player Romon Shirokov, but Fabio Capello will like his sides chances against the Koreans, who are making their eighth straight World Cup appearance. 

The Russians qualified atop their group, which also included Portugal but will need to shore up as many points as possible before they face group favorites Belgium. Look for the Russians to dominate the midfield, although some concerns have been raised about the high temperatures and humidity, which the Eastern Europeans are not used to. The Russians will look for their creativity to come from outside midfielder Yuri Zhirkov, but the finishing touch is where they will need inspiration. Facing an organized Korean defense, the biggest question remains if the Russians will be able to find ways to break down the stubborn Asians. 

The Koreans come into this tournament having qualified second in Asia after only Iran. The squad is managed by Hong Myung-Bo who led the 'Taegeuk Warriors' to a semi-final appearance at home in World Cup 2002, their best ever finish. He will most likely instruct his side to remain strong in defense and look to counter quickly against the Russians. However, the Koreans are coming into the World Cup on a poor run of form, losing four of their five pre-tournament matches. That said, history is on their side -- the Koreans have won their last three World Cup opening matches. 

Expect this match to be open and flowing. Both teams will need all three points in order to place themselves in a position to advance to the knockout round. The group favorites, Belgium, are dark horses to go quite far in this tournament with an extremely talented young side. With both sides looking for a positive result, I look for the superior Russians to start strongly and never look back. 

My Prediction: 2-0 Russia

Betting Odds (courtesy of

Russia: Pick Em' (-300)  -140 Moneyline
South Korea: Pick Em'  (+240) + 375 Moneyline
Draw: (+285)