World Cup Preview – South Korea (24/32)

South Korea

AFC

Group F

Best World Cup Performance: Fourth place – 2002

Current World Ranking: 57

History

South Korea will be hoping for a better showing than their last World Cup outing in 2014, where they crashed out of the Group stages in last place in a group containing Belgium, Russia and Algeria. The Warriors have qualified for the past 8 World Cups, with their best performance coming when they co-hosted with Japan in 2002, finishing in fourth place. This set a precedent for Korea, and the fans will be baying for valiant performance in Russia.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Kim Seung-gyu (Vissel Kobe), Kim Jin-hyeon (Cerezo Osaka), Cho Hyun-woo (Daegu FC).

Defenders: Kim Young-gwon (Guangzhou Evergrande), Jang Hyun-soo (FC Tokyo), Jung Seung-hyun (Sagan Tosu), Yun Yong-sun (Seongnam FC), Kwon Kyung-won (Tianjin Quanjian), Oh Ban-suk (Jeju United), Kim Jin-su (Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors), Kim Min-woo (Sangju Sangmu), Park Joo-ho (Ulsan Hyundai), Hong Chul (Sangju Sangmu), Go Yo-han (FC Seoul), Lee Yong (Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors).

Midfielders: Ki Sung-yueng (Swansea City), Jung Woo-young (Vissel Kobe), Kwon Chang-hoon (Dijon FCO), Ju Se-jong (Asan Mugunghwa FC), Koo Ja-cheol (FC Augsburg), Lee Jae-sung (Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors), Lee Seung-woo (Hellas Verona), Moon Seon-min (Incheon United), Lee Chung-yong (Crystal Palace).

Forwards: Kim Shin-wook (Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors), Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur), Hwang Hee-chan (FC Red Bull Salzburg), Lee Keun-ho (Gangwon FC).

 Group Fixtures:

  1. Vs Sweden 13:00, 18.06.18                  Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod
  2. Vs Mexico 16:00, 23.06.06.18            Rostov Arena, Rostov
  3. Vs Germany 15:00, 27.06.18                  Kazan Arena, Kazan

Manager – Shin Tae-yong

Shin Tae-yong has been manager of the South Korean national side since 2017, having previously managed the U20 and U23 Korean sides, overseeing the development of many young players who are currently in his senior squad.

In his first year as boss of the national side he delivered silverware, winning the EAFF Asian Cup, beating off Japan and China to claim the title. The former midfielder will be hoping to use this winning mentality to get out of the group stages, although it will be a difficult task.

 Qualification

South Korea qualified for the 2018 Russia World Cup through the AFC qualifying system.

As they were the third highest ranked Asian nation, they secured a bye to the second round, where they faced Lebanon, Kuwait, Myanmar, and Laos in Group G. South Korea blitzed through the group with an 100% winning record and didn’t concede a single goal. In round three Korea could not repeat their faultless displays and narrowly secured the second automatic qualifying place ahead of Syria.

Captain – Ki Sung-yueng

The South Korean captain has had a turbulent tenure, as controversy has followed him all the way through his international career with the Taegeuk Jeonsa.

In 2007 Ki attracted disapproval after taking to social media for criticising South Korean fans for booing after a goalless draw against Uzbekistan in a u-23 game. Ki found himself in trouble again in 2013 after an alleged racist gesture against Japan, after apparently becoming incensed at seeing a rising sun flag used by Japan during the Second World War.

Nevertheless, Ki will captain South Korea in Russia, hopefully using his passionate nature to spur on his compatriots.

Dangerman – Son Heung-min

Son has had a fantastic three seasons at Tottenham Hotspur since signing from Bayer Leverkusen for £22 Million in 2015.

The forward has netted 47 times in English football and is an integral part of Spurs’ Champions League-quality side.

Son will be the spearhead of South Korea’s attack, it is difficult to envisage many chances for the Taegeuk Jeonsa happening without the attacking prowess of Son, surely many of the Group F defences will have a detailed strategy to deal with his threat when they face South Korea.

 Young Player – Hwang Hee-chan

Hwang Hee-chan has set tongues wagging with his performances in the Austrian Bundesliga for Red Bull Salzburg.

The forward was especially vital in Salzburg’s Europa League campaign, scoring five times as Die Roten Bullen reached the Semi-finals, His most notable goal came against Lazio as they won 6-5 against the Italian side.

22-year-old Hwang will be hoping to add to his two international goals, a good performance at the World Cup could increase his stock, potentially leading to a move to a larger European side.

 Premier League Players

There are two Premier League representatives in the South Korea Squad, prolific Spurs forward Son and Palace midfielder Lee Chung-yong. South Korea captain Ki Sung-yeung has recently been relegated with Swansea.

The majority of the squad play domestically in South Korea, with the exception of Kwon Chang-hoon who plays for Dijon in France, Koo Ja-cheol of Augsburg in Germany, Lee Seung-woo who plays for Verona in Italy and Hwang Hee-chan the exciting young forward of RB Salzburg in Austria.

 Prediction 

South Korea are the lowest ranked side in Group F, and are a massive 750-1 to win the tournament, with only Panama, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia having bigger odds.

However, with Son Heung-min leading the Korean’s attack the Warriors cannot be ruled out and may well spring a surprise in Russia. Their opening fixture against Sweden will set the tone, and if they win they will be full of confidence and could provide an upset.

Written by Calum Ridgewell.

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