Korea Republic
© AFP

The past
Korea Republic's record at the Olympic competition is a fairly accurate reflection of the country's football development. In the first year when they became affiliated to FIFA (1948), they booked qualification for the games in London but their debut performance on the global stage ended in a 12-0 humiliation at the hands of a rampant Sweden. The gulf in class between the team and the world's best encouraged the Koreans to embark on a building process. Progress was initially shown in their third Olympic competition at Seoul 1988, where they managed two draws, including the opening goalless tie against eventual gold-medalists the USSR. From there they went on qualify for each of the past four Olympic Games and their development culminated at Athens 2004, when they progressed beyond the group stage for the first time.

The present
They dominated last year's Asian qualifying tournament, progressing to their eighth and sixth straight Olympic Games. After going through to last-twelve under former Dutch coach Pim Verbeek, they opened the qualifying final stage with a 2-1 win over Uzbekistan-a team that they had also defeated in the previous two-leg meetings in the preliminary rounds. After a pair of 1-0 wins over Bahrain and Syria, their winning form inexplicably deserted them in the next two matches against Syria and Uzbekistan as they could manage no better than two 0-0 results. Although they failed to end the goal drought in the goalless draw in their last match against Bahrain, the point was enough to see them through.

The future
New coach Park Sung-Wha didn't hide his ambitions of moulding his team into an attack-minded outfits. "The former coach (Pim Verbeek) relied on taking advantage of playing on the flanks, which lacks diversity so I will stick to a 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1 formation to solidify the midfield for attacks up the middle," Park said in his first press conference as Korea Republic U-23 coach in August 2007.

Facts and figures

Former stars
Huwang Sun-Hong, (1996), Park Ji-Sung (2000), Yoo Sang-Chul (2004)

Key players
Park Chu-Young (midfield), Baek Ji-Hong (midfield), Kim Jin-Kyu (defence)

Qualifying statistics
Korea Republic became Asia's most efficient team as they scored only four goals to win three of their six games in the qualifying final round.

The numbers game
3: the number of goalless draws they earned in the qualifying final round.