Ranked 60 by FIFA standards and one of the strongest teams from South-East Asia, Korea Republic has once again qualified for the FIFA World Cup, to be held in Brazil this year.
Placed in group H, the Koreans will have to fight off tough oppositions in the group as Belgium, Russia and Algeria are all placed above South Korea according to the FIFA ranking.
Hong Myoung-bo, one of the greatest defenders in Asian History and a veteran of four World Cups is an apt manager for the Korean national football team. Being a player of Korea Republic himself, he might be able to lead to team to glory and repeat the feat of the 2002 World Cup. Appointed as recently as June 24th, 2013, his expertise on field might just make up for the short period of time that he has spent with his players.
Myoung-bo has a talented array of players at his disposal but will be missing out on the services of ‘Three-Lung’ Park Ji-Sung. But a spirited performance by the team in a friendly against Greece made it beyond clear that the national side no longer required the services of their Park who is now back to being with two lungs at PSV Eindhoven.
The South Korean team had literally evolved around Park during his hay days at Manchester United. The new talent that has been included in the team is more exciting and the team has achieved a more even level of skill.
Goal-keepers: Sung-Ryong Jung, Jin-Hyeon Kim, Seung-Gyu Kim.
Defenders: Jeong-Ho Hong, Joo-Young Kim, Yong Lee, Joo- Ho Park, Jin-Po Park, Jin-Su Kim, Young Gwon Kim.
Midfielders: Ha Dae-Sung, Han Kook Young, Ki Sung-Young, Kim Bo-Kyung, Koo Ja-Cheol, Lee Chung-Yong, Nam Tae-Hee, Park Jong-Woo, Ki Sung-Yueng.
Attackers: Ji Dong-Won, Kim Shin-Wook, Lee Keun-Ho, Park Chu-Young , Son Hueng-Min.
Korea Republic has a respectable history at the World Cup. Being one of the best East Asian countries to play in the World Cup, their dream run was at the 2002 World Cup when they made full usage of home support and the talent in their team to fight their way till the semi finals where they lost out to Germany. They qualified for the round of 16 again in 2010 where they were defeated by Uruguay. In most other World Cups they have made their exit at the group stages.
Players to look out for:
1. Son Hueng-Min :
This charismatic South Korean striker has scored crucial goals and proven himself in the Bundesliga at Bayer Leverkusen. At only 21 years of age this striker has the experience of playing in one of the best leagues in Europe. He has proven himself to be a lethal finisher infront of the goal. His abilities as a goal poacher is also commendable and hence he can play in various positions and yet set up chances for goals. Combined with his pace and stealth, Myoung-bo will have a reliable attack. The only shortcoming of Son might be his relative inexperience in big international stages and hence Son might not perform at the top o his abilities.
2. Ki Sung-Yueng:
From Celtic to Swansea and then away on loan for Sunderland, Ki Sung-Yueng has developed into a fine midfielder with the ability to control the pace of the game and score goals from set pieces or otherwise as well. If Myoung-bo wants midfield dominance, Sung-Yueng’s game play has to be top notch.
Kim Bo-Kyung, Koo Ja-Cheol, Lee Chung-Yong are some of the other recent crop of players who have rightfully made their way into European clubs and have matured as players. Some have the knowledge of the physicality of the game while others have the tricks and flicks in their bag.
Son and Ja-Cheol have some much required experience of playing in the Bundesliga and that will be invaluable for the team. Sung-Yueng and Park Chu-Young have played in England and are well aware of the physical game play. Kim Bo-Kyung who plays for Cardiff in the Premiere League will be of immense help for the Korean side as well.
The main point of concern in the Korean team might be the absence of any star player in the team. A team that builds around atleast two to three star players finds a stronger presence in the field. Not only does it boost the team moral but sudden flair during game play can be observed from time to time. Korea Republic have to play as a team if they want to negate out the difference they have with the higher ranked European and South American teams.
Also, it still remains to be seen if Chung-Yong can be creative enough in his winger role and play with the same proficiency that he used to play during the first two seasons at Bolton before he suffered the horrifying injury of a broken leg. Although it has been some time now that he has recovered and has been playing again but the main question whether he has reached his full potential still remains.
The wins over Costa Rica and Greece will be morale boosters for the team but Myoung-bo should scrutinize their loss and erase out the mistakes made in their lost matches against Mexico and USA.
Korea Republic might have enough enthusiasm to qualify for the round of 16, but whether they will progress further will be clear from their form in the group stages.
Group H is expected to be dominated by Belgium. Nevertheless, the Koreans should expect to qualify to the next round in the second place as they have the right amount of talent at their disposal to defeat both Russia and Algeria. This Asian team has the means and resources to burst into the international scene in this edition of the World Cup. With an array of hard working and talented players we might just see Belgium or Russia suffering draws or losses at the hand of the Koreans.
South Korea impressed in the last edition of the World Cup when they qualified for the round of 16. With the last friendly before the World Cup to be played against Tunisia on 26th May, Myuong-bo will expect his players to show some character, sparks and a lot of desire that should exist in national squads. The last match will also be a deciding factor in the playing XI and the subs and reserves to be flown to Brazil for the mega event.
The stage has been set the South Koreans, all they need are goals; maybe a lot of them.