Korea Republic
© AFC

The past
Korea Republic’s most successful campaign at the FIFA U-20 FIFA World Cup took place in Mexico 1983, where they stormed into the semi-finals. Since then, the young Taeguk Warriors have managed to go beyond the group stage only three times in eight attempts. They advanced to the quarter-finals with a joint squad of Korea Republic and Korea DPR at Portugal 1991 and reached the Round of 16 at UAE 2003.

In Egypt 2009, Korea Republic reached the quarter-finals after comprehensive 3-0 victories over USA and Paraguay. They crashed out in a 3-2 defeat to eventual champions, Ghana in Suez.

The present
Eleven-time Asian champions Korea Republic opened their qualifying campaign at the AFC U-19 Championship in China, cruising past Iran and Yemen with striker Ji Dong-Won scoring in each game. A goalless draw with Australia followed to set up a tense quarter-final meeting with arch-rivals Japan, who grabbed a 2-0 lead midway through the first half. However, quickfire goals from Kim Kyung-Jung, Hwang Do-Yeon and Jung Seung-Yong on the stroke of half-time earned them a place in the last four as well as passage to Colombia. But in the semi-final, Lee Kwang-Jong’s men lost 2-0 at the hands of neighbours Korea DPR, who later went on to claim the Asian title.

The future
Korea Republic coach Lee Kwang-Jong is one of the most experienced coaches in youth football, having worked full-time for the Korean FA’s youth setup for more than ten years. The 47-year-old was also in charge of Korea Republic at the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Nigeria. His attack-minded approach paid dividends as the Taeguk Warriors reached the quarter-finals.

“I’ve always wanted to play compact football with delicate passes. Defending is important, but I prefer attacking football even if we’re up against stronger opponents,” Lee said. “That’s what I expect from my players. As you’ve seen during the U-17 World Cup, my style will never change and this team will go on in that direction.”