Korea boss not relying on divine help

SAO PAULO- South Korea coach Hong Myung-Bo Wednesday said he would not be praying for divine help against Belgium but he still harbours hopes of a miraculous World Cup escape.

Hong, whose team need a big win against the Group H leaders to have any hope of survival, said he would not be seeking intervention from above because he is not religious.

But some of his players may be saying their prayers as the Taeguk Warriors bid to pull off their greatest miracle since reaching the 2002 semi-finals. "I don't have a religion so I don't ask for divine help. I just look at my players and believe in them," Hong told reporters in Sao Paulo.

"Of course there are players who have a religion - that could be a way they get help as well." Hong, who was captain in 2002, insisted Thursday's result was not a foregone conclusion despite South Korea's winless campaign so far and Belgium's star-studded line-up.

A goalkeeping howler helped South Korea draw their game with Russia and they were then thrashed 4-2 by Algeria to lie bottom. Belgium are qualified with maximum points.

"We know that the Korean people want this, desire this. We will do what we can. I don't know if you can call it a miracle but we will have to wait for the result," Hong said.

"In football the strongest team doesn't always win. So that's what we're preparing for," he added. "Even though it's our last game, we can hope. I don't think you can predict what will happen." Hong refuse to give details of his starting line-up but he defended the under-fire Park Chu-Young after the on-loan Arsenal striker so far failed to find the net.

"He's important for the overall balance of our team. In the first game I don't think he played that poorly, the second game we didn't create enough chances," said Hong.

And captain Koo Ja-Cheol said the team was fully conscious that huge numbers of South Koreans will rise early for a game which starts at 2000 GMT.

"I know the Korean people want us to play a good game tomorrow and they will be waking up early in the morning to cheer us on," said Koo.

"The players know this, that's why we're sacrificing ourselves for the team. We've picked ourselves up for this game and we'll fight for it because we know the Korea people are behind us." South Korea will go through if they beat Belgium by at least two goals and Russia overcome Algeria by a smaller margin in the simultaneous Group H game in Curitiba.