Welcome back to our World Cup 2018 series! With just over a month to go, we have a lot of teams to cover, so let’s just get straight to it!
This team have a history of defying expectations and putting on a great show when it’s needed. They’ve had some issues with management lately, but were still able to battle their way to a spot in the finals in Russia this summer. Fans know them as ‘The Reds’ and in 2002 they actually co-hosted the World Cup.
Yes, that’s right, this week we’re getting to know… South Korea!
Location: East Asia, the southern part (as you may have guessed…) of the Korean Peninsula.
Capital City: Seoul
Official Language: Korean
Famous for: Tech companies, K-Pop, Kimchi.
Fun Fact: South Korea is the plastic surgery capital of the world.
Road to the World Cup
South Korea started the 2018 qualifiers reasonably well, but in the third round a string of losses pushed the Korea Football Association to fire manager Uli Stielike.
This might sound like a bit of an overreaction, but the bad results did involve some historical losses. For example, one of the matches marked the first time South Korea lost to Qatar in 32 years. Ouch!
Stielike has been replaced by Shin Tea-yong, under whom the team couldn’t be said to have put on a great display—squeezing through in second place after a couple of goalless draws. Not exactly thrilling stuff, so let’s hope they’ve saved their best performances for the World Cup itself!
Players to Watch
The captain of the South Korean team, Sung-yueng is a strong and capable midfielder. Given their setbacks coming in to the competition, the players will be looking to him to keep them focused and confident. This shouldn’t be much of an issue as he’s a very experienced player. You may recognise Sung-yueng from the Premier League, where he spends his club career representing Swansea.
If you’re looking for a top defensive pick among the Korean players, Young-sun is your guy. He’s a solid centre-back and plays for Korean side Seongnam.
This promising attacking midfielder plays for French side Dijon when he’s not representing his country. At 23, he’s only recently started playing for the senior Korean team. It’s going well, though—during the second round of qualifiers back in 2015, he scored his first senior goal (quickly followed by his second!) against Laos.
Another player you may recognise from the English clubs, Heung-min plays for Tottenham Hotspur. He’s a top quality striker, and actually holds the title of top Asian goal-scorer in the Premier League. Many consider him to be South Korea’s star player, so let’s see if he can bring some magic to Russia 2018!
Manager: Shin Tae-Yong
FIFA Ranking: 59
What They Have Going For Them
- This is a team that has defied expectation before. They managed to reach the semi-finals in 2002—beating big teams like Portugal, Italy and Spain along the way.
- They have a new manager who hasn’t been able to show off his skills yet, meaning other teams may find it hard to predict South Korea’s approach to play. Plus, new management can provide a much-needed breath of fresh air for struggling teams.
This is a squad that could really go either way this summer, so all that’s left for us to say on the matter is 행운을 빕니다 !