South Korea Preview – Could 3 Be The Magic Number?
World Cup 2014
South Korea have reached each of the past eight World Cup finals and since reaching the semi-finals in 2002 nobody now expects anything other than a tough game against them now.
Three losses in their last four illustrate the difficulties South Korea have faced lately, and they’ve failed to score in each of those defeats. They took a 4-0 hammering from Mexico at the end of January and followed it up with a 2-0 loss to the USA. An impressive 2-0 win over Greece came next but their old problems resurfaced in a disappointing 1-0 loss to Tunisia at the end of May. With only one more game against Ghana to come before the Korean’s tournament starts they will need to iron out any problems quickly.
Korea finished behind Iran to book their finals ticket but it was far from smooth sailing as they lost twice in their eight games – both to the Iranians – and only pipped Uzbekistan in third by virtue of their goal difference being one better as a 5-1 victory in their final game over Qatar was not quite enough for the unfortunate Uzbeks.
No fewer than five of the Korean squad ply their trade in England and will be familiar to many, although it’s fair to say Park Chu-young may not even be recognisable to even avid Arsenal fans as his impact on their starting line-ups has been minimal although Ki Seung-yeung was impressive in Sunderland’s successful bid to avoid relegation and will be key to their chances.
Goalkeepers: Jung Sung-ryeong (Suwon Bluewings), Kim Seung-gyu (Ulsan Horang-i), Lee Bum-young (Busan I’Park)
Defenders: Yun Suk-young (QPR), Kim Young-kwon (Guangzhou Evergrande), Hwang Seok-ho (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Hong Jeong-ho (Augsburg), Kwak Tae-hwi (Al Hilal), Lee Yong (Ulsan Horang-i), Kim Chang-soo (Kashiwa Reysol), Park Joo-ho (Mainz)
Midfielders: Ki Seung-yueng (Sunderland, on loan from Swansea), Ha Dae-sung (Beijing Guoan), Han Kook-young (Kashiwa Reysol), Park Jung-woo (Guangzhou R&F), Son Heung-min (Bayer Leverkusen), Kim Bo-kyung (Cardiff City), Lee Chung-yong (Bolton Wanderers), Ji Dong-won (Augsburg).
Forwards: Koo Ja-cheol (Mainz), Lee Keun-ho (Sangju Sangmu), Park Chu-young (Arsenal), Kim Shin-wook (Ulsan Horang-i).
South Korea’s opening game against Russia – who beat them 2-1 at the tail-end of last year – could be the fixture to make or break the Korean’s tournament as they will be expected to see off Algeria in their second game while victory over a classy Belgian outfit may be beyond them and they certainly won’t want to be requiring victory in that game to progress as it would be a huge ask for Hong Myung-bo’s charges.
17 June, Russia v South Korea, Arena Pantanal, Cuiaba, 23:00
22 June, South Korea v Algeria, Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre, 20:00
26 June, South Korea v Belgium, Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, 21:00
Their recent displays don’t bode well for South Korea and they certainly will have to pull out all the stops to finish above either Belgium or Russia, two very talented sides who could go quite far in the competition. They should have more than enough to see off Algeria, however, so 10/3 on a tally of three points from their group games is a gamble well worth taking.