South Korea heads into its 10th appearances at a FIFA World Cup after scraping through a subpar qualifying stage.
Uli Stielike wouund up being sacked, with new manager Shin Tae-yong being tasked with leading the Reds in Russia after impressing with their Under-20 and Under-23 squad.
A number of familiar faces will be on display this summer for fans of the Premier League. Although Tottenham’s Son Heung-min is the talisman, supporters can also look forward to seeing Ki Sung-yeung (Swansea City) and former Sunderland playmaker Koo Ja-cheol.
There are more than a few concerns about some tactical issues that need to be ironed out if South Korea is to challenge to reach the knockout stage out of a tough group. Here’s a closer look at South Korea entering the World Cup.
How They Qualified
South Korea’s journey to Russia this summer has been three years in the making. Its qualifying campaign kicked off with an 8-0 win over Laos in September 2015.
Victories over Lebanon, Kuwait and Myanmar ensured passage into the second round of qualifying from Asia. The Reds continued in the same vein and against China, Qatar and Uzbekistan, but they did slip up against Iran and Syria.
South Korea eventually notched enough points to qualify for the World Cup alongside Iran, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Australia to complete the Asian Football Confederation’s representation in Russia this summer.
Group Stage Games
Group F looks set to be one of the most exciting at the World Cup this summer, with a mouthwatering three-way battle for a likely second-place finish behind Germany–and a potential last-16 match against the host nation from four years ago, Brazil–in the offing.
South Korea kicks its group campaign off on June 18 against Sweden, with a showdown vs. Mexico five days later in a match that could wing the balance of the group.
The Reds then end their campaign four days later against the group favorite, and one of the favorites for the entire tournament, Germany.
Possible Route to the Final
Although passage out of the group looks tough enough, a last-16 tie against Brazil could prove to be too much for South Korea.
But should the unlikely happen and the Seleção get dumped out at the hands of Shin Tae-yong’s squad (or not finish first in its group), it looks as though either England or Belgium would be waiting in the quarterfinals.
There could then be a potential semifinal against either Argentina or Spain ahead of the final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. But all of this, really, is a stretch.
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), Oh Ban-suk (Jeju United), 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), 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)
Forwards: Kim Shin-wook (Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors), Son Heung-min (Tottenham), Hwang Hee-chan (FC Red Bull Salzburg)
(3-5-2): Kim Seung-gyu; Oh Ban-suk, Kim Young-gwon, Jang Hyun-soo; Lee Yong, Koo Ja-cheol, Jung Woo-young, Ki Sung-yueng, Kim Min-woo; Son Heung-min, Hwang Hee-chan.
Realistically South Korea, can only hope for a competitive showing in the group stage of the World Cup, but passage into the last 16 certainly isn’t out of the question – especially if star man Son Heung-min is on form.
Going forward, the Reds do have a lot of quality, and their youthful attack will offer fans hope of what the future has in store. But Shin is seemingly flip-flopping between three and four at the back, something that could be exploited in Russia.