FIFA Ranking : 28
Odds : 250 – 1
Previous Tournaments :
South Korea are appearing at their 10th consecutive World Cup and 11th in total, having qualified for every finals since 1986. Their best performance came in 2002 when, as co-hosts with Japan. Guus Hiddink led the country to the semi-finals where they lost to Germany. They again advanced to the knockout rounds in 2010, when they were eliminated in the Round of 16 by Uruguay
How they qualified :
South Korea had few issues advancing from a relatively unchallenging group in the third phase of Asia’s preliminaries, winning eight and drawing one of their first nine qualifiers to secure their place at the finals.
Form Guide :
Form guide South Korea have suffered inconsistent form since qualifying for the World Cup, slipping to a heavy 5-1 loss against Brazil in June while drawing with Costa Rica and defeating Cameroon in September. A second-string side lost 3-0 to Japan at the East Asian Championship in July.
Looking to advance to the knockout stages
South Korea will extend their record run of consecutive World Cup appearances in Qatar, but questions remain over whether coach Paulo Bento can deliver consistency from a side who lack creativity despite the attacking talent of Son Heung-min.
November’s finals will be South Korea’s 10th straight appearance at the World Cup – the most by an Asian nation – but it has been 12 years since the country advanced to the knockout rounds.
The euphoric run to the semi-finals on home soil in 2002 is a distant memory and South Korea’s elimination by Uruguay in the Round of 16 in South Africa eight years later is the only other occasion they have progressed beyond the group phase.
There is cautious optimism, however, around a squad led by the goal-scoring talents of Tottenham’s Son, who is facing a race against time to be fit after undergoing surgery on a facial fracture, and anchored by the increasingly imposing defensive lynchpin Kim Min-jae.
Son’s exploits in the Premier League have made him the poster boy for Korean football while centre half Kim has grown in stature and experience since leaving Chinese Super League side Beijing Guoan for a move west in 2021.
A season spent earning plaudits in Turkey with Fenerbahce was swiftly followed by a transfer to Napoli in Serie A in July and Kim’s importance will be keenly felt for Korea in Qatar.
However, it is between defence and attack that Korea’s issues lie, with a lack of creativity and depth within the squad threatening to undermine their hopes against Uruguay, Portugal and Ghana.
The team have not always convinced during Bento’s four years in charge, with the Portuguese overseeing a disappointing quarter-final exit at the 2019 Asian Cup early in his tenure.
Initial struggles to harness the talents of Son in tandem with fellow attackers Hwang Hee-chan and Hwang Ui-jo have been overcome but the Koreans rarely imposed themselves on their opponents during the preliminaries.
Carving out chances can be a challenge for the Koreans, with Bento yet to decide whether to stick with older heads such as Lee Jae-sung or Kwon Chang-hoon in the creative positions or to go instead for the youthful dynamism of Mallorca’s Lee Kang-in.
A lack of depth beyond the starting line-up, as highlighted during a disappointing showing at the East Asian Championship in Japan in July, will also be a concern that leaves Bento hoping he can keep all his key players fit throughout the group phase.