17-June Russia (9pm GMT Sao Paulo)
22-June Algeria (8pm GMT Fortaleza)
26-June Belgium (9pm GMT Brasilia)
South Korea are battle hardened and know what it takes to reach the knock-out rounds of a World Cup. That being said, Aman Sehdev argues they will find it tough to advance out of their group.
Coach: Hong Myung-Bo
Captain and rock at the heart of the South Korea defence during his country’s improbable run to fourth place in the 2002 World Cup on home soil, he was assistant manager at Anzhi Makhachkala in 2012 under his old South Korea boss Guus Hiddink. Took the reins of the Korean national team after predecessor Choi Kang-Hee’s struggle through qualification. Myung-Bo also oversaw an impressive Bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics.
Why they could be dangerous
Hong Myung-Bo has brought stability to a team that made hard work of qualification. They have quality in the form of striker Son Heung-Min and he will be key to Korea’s hopes of qualifying out of a group that on paper looks daunting. Korea are always an athletic, compact team and have showed before in 2002 that they can upset the odds. Reaching the last 16 would represent some achievement.
The world on his shoulders: Son Heung-Min
South Korea’s brightest star, 21-year-old Son Heung-Min will be burdened with the expectation to provide the goals for his country. Equally adept with both feet and pacey, the youngster never played in Korea, instead joining the Hamburg academy in Germany at 16. Now part of a perennial Champions League chasing team at Bayer Leverkusen, he has the experience at the highest level and will be hoping to add to his six international goals.
Did you know?
From 2001-2007 South Korea employed seven different national team Coaches – four of which were Dutchman. Jo Bonfrere, Dick Advocaat and PimVerbeek failed to spark the nation like their compatriot Guus Hiddink did in his stint from 2001-2002. The illustrious Coach endeared himself to the hearts of Koreans everywhere when he amazingly took the national team to the semi-finals on home soil. The Gwangju World Cup stadium was subsequently renamed the Guus Hiddink Stadium in his honour.
Country legend: Park Ji-Sung
Current Korea boss Hong Myung-Bo and all time scorer Cha Bum-Kun are legends in their own right, but Park Ji-Sung was the first truly worldwide star of Korean football. The first Asian player to win the UEFA Champions League, Park enjoyed a fruitful career with Manchester United where he won multiple trophies. Now retired from the national team, Park received 100 caps for Korea and is Asia’s joint all time leading scorer in the World Cup with three goals.
Korea soak up pressure and attempt to attack with pace on the counter. Although Park Chu-Young operates as the target man up front, it is SonHeung-Min who is the team’s main goal threat. Son plays behind Park but both can interchange at different points of a game. Winger Lee Chung-Yong provides the attacking threat on the right side of midfield. They are well organized as a unit, but can be undone by better quality opposition.
South Korea versus…
…Russia P1 W0 D0 L1 F1 A2
…Algeria P3 W3 D0 L0 F8 A2
…Belgium P3 W0 D1 L2 F2 A5
Population: 50.22 million
World Cup appearances: 8
Best finish: Fourth in Japan/South Korea 2002
Famous for: Shocking the world by dumping Italy and Spain out of the World Cup on their way to 4th place in the 2002 edition – that is still the best ever finish for an Asian team.
Top Division: K League Classic
How they got to the World Cup: Finished second in Asia Group A
FIFA World Ranking: 55
Last World Cup Appearance: South Africa 2010 – Lost in the last 16 to Uruguay
Continental Honours: Two-time Asian Cup Champions in 1956 and 1960
Most Capped Player: Hong Myung-Bo (136 caps)
Leading International Scorer: Cha Bum-Kun (55 goals)
Nickname: Taegeuk Warriors