Korea Republic have taken part in the FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers 14 times, reaching the world finals eight times so far. Although they are widely regarded as tournament regulars after making their seventh consecutive finals appearance at South Africa 2010, the Taeguk Warriors had to wait 32 years to return to the world stage following their historic debut at Switzerland 1954. Their recent qualifying campaigns have been relatively straightforward – apart from the 1994 edition, when they needed the ‘Miracle of Doha’ to grab a last-minute ticket to USA – and the South Koreans duly secured their passage to South Africa with two games to spare.
FIFA World Cup history
Despite being Asia’s most frequent visitors to world football’s showpiece event, Korea Republic had never won a match at the finals until they co-hosted Korea/Japan 2002. They got off to a winning start with victory over Poland before defeating Portugal to reach the second round for the first time. The Taeguk Warriors went on to reach the semi-finals at the expense of Italy and Spain, only to lose to Germany in the last four. In 2010, they made history again by reaching the knockout stage for the first time on foreign soil, before going down at the hands of Uruguay in the Round of 16.
The current crop
With their seasoned veterans from 2002 – namely Lee Woon-Jae, Lee Young-Pyo and Park Ji-Sung – all retired after South Africa 2010, Korea Republic have been going through an experimental period under coach Cho Kwang-Rae. His priority, until being dismissed in December 2011, was to instil a quick passing game in the current crop of young midfielders such as Ki Sung-Yueng, Lee Chung-Yong, Yoon Bitgaram, and Koo Ja-Cheol. The latter was in fact the revelation of the South Koreans’ AFC Asian Cup campaign in 2011, with the prolific playmaker scoring five goals to become the top scorer at the continental finals.
The key players
Striker Park Chu-Young is the icon of the new-look Taeguk Warriors, wearing the captain’s armband since 2011. In midfield, Lee Chung-Yong provides the ammunition from the right flank, while goalscoring defender Lee Jung-Soo has become the leader of the South Korean rearguard.
Current coach: Vacant
Best performance in a FIFA competition: FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan 2002 (Fourth place)
Former stars: Cha Bum-Kun, Hong Myung-Bo, Park Ji-Sung