Team: South Korea
Skipper: Ki Sung-Yueng
Manager: Shin Tae-Yong
After being pelted away with disdain, having endured a string of lacklustre performances in Brazil, four years ago, the South Koreans (FIFA rank #61) would be looking to better their performances and avoid the Brazil fiasco. If accumulating a solitary point was arduous for the Koreans last time around, the 2018 challenge looks even more daunting for Seoul, having been pipped against Germany, Mexico and Sweden in Group F.
The path to Qualification:-
South Korea barely managed to limp through the final round of Asian Qualification, and with just four wins in 10 games, all of which came at home. Coach Uli Stielike was fired with two games remaining and the performances were marred with stinging criticism from their most ardent fans.
World Cup History:-
After making their FIFA Wolrd Cup debut back in 1954, where they crashed out in the Group stage, South Korea, had to wait up until 1986 to make their second entry into the WC finals. From 1986 to 1998, Korea squandered to a group-stage elimination. The 2002 event which was co-hosted by South Korea and Japan, saw the Korean nation rise to heights, never seen before in their half a century-long FIFA association. South Korea ended up as table-toppers in the Group stage, with two wins in three matches.
In the Round of 16, co-hosts South Korea defeated Italy by 2-1 in extra-time thanks to an extra-time goal by Ahn Jung-hwan, and history was made when they defeated Spain 5-3 on penalties, making the hosts the first team in the Asian Football Confederation, to advance to the semi-final stage. But their dreams of progressing to the finals were shattered at the hands of Turkey (3-2). The next three editions of the World Cup ended in disappointment for the Asian nation, as Group stage exit in 2006 and 2014, along with a Round of 16 elimination in 2010 followed.
Last World Cup Performance:-
South Korea was piped with Belgium, Algeria and 2018 hosts Russia in the 2014 showpiece event, and despite a plethora of expectations from Hong led unit, Korea continued its abysmal run-of-form.
They started their 2014 campaign with a 1-1 draw against Russia, before suffering a heart wrenching 4-2 loss at the hands of Algeria. A 1-0 humbling in their third game against Belgium meant South Korea had to bow out of the tournament without a single-victory for the first time since 1998.
South Korea FULL SQUAD:-
Goalkeepers: Kim Seung-gyu (Vissel Kobe), Kim Jin-hyeon (Cerezo Osaka), Cho Hyun-woo (Daegu).
Defenders: Kim young-gwon (Guangzhou Evergrande), Jang Hyun-soo (Tokyo), Jung Seung-hyun (Sagan Tosu), Yun Yong-sun (Seongnam), Oh Ban-suk (Jeju United), Kim Min-woo (Sangju Sangmu), Park Joo-ho (Ulsan Hyundai), Hong Chul (Sangju Sangmu), Go Yo-han (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 (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 (Salzburg).
What is South Korea's Playing Formation?
While Son Heung-Min remains one of the key tenets to Korea's success in the 2018 World Cup, it is also worth pondering as to whether it is prudent to play him as a lone-striker, or with a genuine partner.
Korea's much-improved string of performances came way back in 2017 when they defeated Colombia and Serbia in a 4-4-2 formation.
In a tournament that requires immaculate team-work and consistent performances, Son Heung-Min will be one of the key players for South Korea, and any chances of them improving their abysmal 2014 campaign, depends on how the 25-year-old fares throughout the tournament.
What are the Strengths and Weaknesses of the South Korean Football team?
Despite major stumbles in their journey to Russia 2018, the Koreans, under new coach Shin Tae-Yong, have been a much-improved unit. One of the key strengths lies in the speed at which they can attack, leaving their opponents in utter shock.
While Son Heung-Min is obviously their key attacking talent, the team boasts of incredible mid-fielders in Ki Sung-Yeung, Kwon Chang-Hoon, and Lee Jae-Sung.
While South Korea possesses great talent in attacking and mid-filed facet of the game, their obvious weakness lies in their defensive game. Frequent lapses along with their Goalkeeper Kim Seung-Gyu, who has been guilty of making frequent errors can be their nemesis in the crucial stages of the tournament.