The South Korea national football team was qualified to the 2018 FIFA World Cup from the second position in Group A of the qualifying tournament Asian Football Confederation. In their group, the Koreans are considered as the obvious favorite, however it was not easy for them to get selected. The cause is defensive play and also unsuccessful matches with the group outsiders. Red Devils managed to lose to the two last teams of the group: Qatar and China national football teams. As a result, two rounds before the end of the qualifier, Korea put itself in a risky spot. But in matches with Iran and Uzbekistan, the direct competitors for road to the World Cup, the Koreans were able to get the minimum necessary two points and, thereby, secured their berth at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.
For the tenth time South Korea takes part in the World Cup. The first participation of Red Devils in the main tournament took place in 1954 but brought no positive emotions to the Koreans. At the first stage the team suffered two humiliating defeats against the Hungary and Turkey national football teams of with overall score 0-16 and finished their performances on this tournament.
The Koreans had to wait for the following World Cup for over 30 years. Only in 1986 the Southerners were able to overcome the qualifying tournament and broke through to the Mexico. This tournament became for Korea much more successful than previous. The team was able to score their first goals in the World Cups (four goals for three games) and also to score the first points after the drawn against the Bulgaria national football team. Since the World Cup 1986, which took place in Mexico, the South Korea national football team has missed no final tournament of the World Cup.
The true success came to the hardworking Koreans at the home World Cup 2002. South Korea acted very responsibly in the tournament organization (this championship became the first held in the territory of Asia) and in preparation of their national team. Two years before the tournament, the great Dutch expert Guus Hiddink was invited to the position of Head Coach. The tournament preparation took the Koreans record three months which allowed the team to come to the championship in top physical shape. It is also worth recognizing the crucial role of the referees in the Korea progress at the home World Cup. But first things first.
At the group stage the Koreans must have played against the teams of Poland, the USA and Portugal. In the first round match the Koreans surely confronted their opponents from Poland — 2:0. In the second round Guus Hiddink`s players ended the match against the USA in a draw. In the last tour, the Portugal-Korea match decided which team would go to the round of last 16. The match turned out rather nervous and rough, on the match course the referee sent off two players of the Portugal national football team. And at the very end Park Ji-Sung scored the only goal and, for the first time in the history, set the South Korea national football team of on road to the round of last 16 in the World Cup.
In the first playoff round the Koreans must have met with the Italian national football team, one of the main competitors for the victory in the championship. Already at the fifth minute the championship hosts acquired the right to penalty but Ahn Jung Hwan was not able to realize a penalty kick. At the 17th minute the Italians came forward and further completely controlled the match course. It seemed, the Korean fairy tale came to its end, but the referee and football players of South Korea had other opinion. At the 88th minute the hosts equalized the score and transferred the game into extra time. At the 114th minute of the match the players of South Korea knocked down the Italian forward Francesco Totti in their penalty area, but the referee instead of appointment of penalty made the decision to remove the Italian for simulation. And four minutes later Ahn Jung Hwan corrected his missed shot and scored his “golden goal”.
In the quarterfinal the tournament hosts had a meeting with another obvious favorite — the Spanish national football team. That match was remembered due to stranger (as compared to the match against the Italians) decisions of the referee. At that meeting the referee cancelled two goals of the Spanish national football team scored in due form. Thanks to it, the Koreans were able to stand a goalless draw and to wait for a penalty shootout. In the penalty shootout, South Korea realized all five attempts and, thanks to one missed shot of the Spaniards, went to the semifinal!
It was the end of the Red Devils` feats. In the semifinal South Korea lost to Germany (0:1), and to Turkey in the match for the third place by the score of 2:3. The South Korea captured their greatest achievement and got into the four strongest teams of the world. Despite controversial referee's decisions, it is also worth noting that the Koreans had their success mostly due to their excellent physical shape, excellent teamwork and also skillful actions of the coaching staff.
Another World Cup came to the end rather successfully for the Korea. It was in 2010 at the tournament in the Republic of South Africa where the Korean team managed to leave the group. At the group stage the Asian national team were able to collect four points when won the match against the Greek national football team and drew against the team of Nigeria. In the round of last 16 South Korea gave way to the Uruguay when they missed a decisive goal 10 minutes before the end of regulation time.
There are two victories at the Asian Cup in the asset of the South Korea, but they happened in far 1956 and 1960. The Koreans became winners of the first two Asian Cups. We should note that Red Devils are regularly considered as favorites of the Asian Cup, but every time they need just a little to win the tournament. For example, in the 21st century in five tournaments of the Asia Cup they became the third tree times and once the second.
The South Korea squad, like most Asian national football teams, is formed generally of the local national championship players. Midfielders of the South Korea national team Ki Sung-yueng and Son Heung-min, who play in the English Premier League, are most known to the European football fans.
The South Korea national football team in the World Cup is definitely going to be neither a “whipping boy” nor an opponent through passage, but will hardly be able to count on more than leaving the group.