Team: South Korea
Colours: Red shirts, blue shorts, red socks.
Nickname: Taeguk Chunsa (Korean Warriors)
Previous World Cup appearances: (7) 1954, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006
Best World Cup performance: Fourth, 2002
Coach: Huh Jung-moo
Most capped player: Hong Myung-bo (136)
Top goal scorer: Cha Bum-keun (55)
FIFA Ranking (Apr 10) : 47
South Korea Squad
It was the 1954 Swiss World Cup when Republic of Korea (Korea) had made the final stage for the first time. However they realised a huge gap with regards to class, losing to Hungary (0-9) and Turkey (0-7) in the first round respectively.
Then, it took 32 years to get to the final stage again. In the 1986 Mexico World Cup, Korea, grouped with world champions Argentina and powerful European teams such as Italy and Bulgaria, had finally earned their first point in World Cup history after drawing with Bulgaria.
Based on this initial success, Korea went to seven consecutive World Cup finals from 1986 to the 2010 South Africa World Cup. Especially in 2002, when Korea hosted the first Asian World Cup with co-host Japan and impacted a fresh shock to the football world, being the first Asian team to make the semi-final.
In the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Korea failed to reach the last 16. Korea did, however, earn their first away win against Togo in their World Cup history, resulting in the record of W1 D1 L1 (the draw with France and the defeat vs Switzerland). It was somewhat disappointing because Korea was the only country who dropped out in the group stage among the nations who earned 4 points plus.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Korea was assigned a top seed with Australia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Japan in the Asian qualifying stage for the 2010 World Cup. In the third round, Korea met North Korea, Jordan and Turkmenistan in Group Three. Though Korea disappointingly claimed two draws with its political enemy, North Korea, the team made the final round easily with the record of three wins and three draws.
At the final qualifying round, Korea was allocated to a much harder Group B with two strong forces of the Middle East (Saudi Arabia and Iran), traditional rivals (North Korea) and one dark horse (United Arab Emirates). Even though the start was not so good (with a draw versus North Korea), Korea sailed smoothly through following their five games (W4 D1) and confirmed qualification to the final stage. Finally Korea accomplished seven consecutive qualifications to the World Cup finals with an unbeaten record in the final qualifying round.
Firstly, Korea has good team chemistry which is induced from the characteristics of Korean people, who like to focus on co-work and community. Another strength is the player’s hard work rates. Korean players as well as Park Ji-Sung are very diligent players. Finally, Korea has many versatile players. Traditionally, Korea has seen a lack of specialists, instead, Korean players can use both feet and be used in multiple positions.
Defending set pieces. The first choice goalkeeper (Lee Woon-Jae, 182cm) and two centre-backs, Cho Yong-Hyung (182cm) and Lee Jung-Soo (185cm) are relatively smaller than European players. Also there is a huge gap between regular players and substitutes in terms of performance. If the best goal scorer, Park Chu-Young, were injured, there is no proper replacement for him and also Park Ji-Sung and Lee Chung-Yong in both wing positions are irreplaceable players too. Moreover, without Ki Sung-Yong there is no one who can dispatch the ball from the middle to the front.
Huh Jung-Moo was one of Korea`s legendary players who had been playing in Europe (for PSV) in the early 80’s. As can be seen by his nickname `Jindo dog` (Korea’s traditional dog famous for bravery), he has huge competitive spirit and is famous for asking players for a stern mentality. His team is hard to beat because he usually focuses on defence rather than offence and has thus established 27 consecutive unbeaten games during his second period as coach of the Korean national team (the run did, however, end during the friendly match against Serbia held at Craven Cottage in London mid November 2009)
Park Ji-Sung (Manchester United): Park Ji-Sung is famous for the high work rate as shown by his nickname `Three Lung Park`. As the most popular footballer in Korea, Park has lead Korea`s attack alongside Park Chu-Young.
Park Chu-Young (AS Monaco): Another Park who is much younger (24). Chu-Young has shown good performances as an ace in AS Monaco pack alongside Nene. He also shared the second best goals corer title (four goals) in the World Cup qualifying stage.
Lee Chung-Yong (Bolton Wanderers): Lee (who plays for Bolton Wanderers) is one of the rising starlets in Korea having played well in his debut season in the Premier League. He seems to be known as the future of Korea, good at attacking and with a precise cross as well.
BEST FOOTBALLING MOMENT
Of course, it was when Korea advanced to the final four at the 2002 World Cup. However, most Korean fans remember the golden goal versus Italy in the last 16 when ‘Lord of Ring’ Ahn Jung-Hwan kissed his ring after scoring in the extended period.
OFF THE PITCH
Famous for: Nationalism. In Korea every sport, as well as football, has strong nationalism meaning most Korea fans are crazy at the international matches. Therefore, players step up a level when they wear the red national team jersey. In 2002, fanatical Korean supporters in City Hall’s square were a fresh shock to world football fans and media.
Most likely to: Groups of people in red will be found everywhere in Korea during the 2010 World Cup period. The `Red Devils` will make the maximum decibel of noise in the world.
WORLD CUP OBJECTIVE
Definitely advance to the last 16 for the first time in an away tournament. Previously in Germany, Korea almost made it, but unfortunately failed to achieve their dream.