MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 21: Ji-Sung Park of Manchester United celebrates after scoring the winning goal with team mate Nani during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford on March 21, 2010 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
FIFA RANK: 47
When I think of South Korea, I think of karma. After a stellar, yet controversial run to the 2002 World Cup semis, the Koreans failed to make it past the group stage four years later when expectations were sky high.
I say karma because if you remember anything about the 2002 Cup, then you know the squad known as the “Taegeuk Warriors” or much easier to pronounce “Tigers of Asia” got more home field calls and more breaks than Dwayne Wade in NBA Finals versus the Mavs. Yes, the officiating against Italy and Spain in the knockout rounds was so bad, both refs haven’t been seen since and are probably in some witness protection program. But ultimately the soccer gods caught up to South Korea in Germany, so now were left to wonder what the Tigers can accomplish this summer without the bad vibes.
To begin with, the Tigers were actually drawn into a manageable group. Every team in Group B (Argentina, Nigeria and Greece) was inconsistent throughout qualification, while South Korea cruised through Asia.
And these players are no strangers to the pressure of the World Cup. The Tigers haven’t missed a Cup since 1982, making them the most accomplished side in Asia. They’re solid and have premier players on the roster. Watch out for Park Ji-Sung in South Africa. The captain of the Tigers is a regular on Manchester United’s squad (that’s not a typo, the real Man-U) and known for his all action style in the mid-field. Add Lee Chung-Yong from Bolton and Ki-Sung-Yong from Celtic, and you have three proven players, playing in Europe’s highest levels.
This will be one of the more interesting teams to watch this summer. Its hard to imagine a run similar to the 2002 Cup, but getting out of the group stage isn’t that far fetched. Argentina is the heavy favorite, but the second spot in the group is wide open.
Either way, this is Korea’s best chance to advance, even without the D-Wade treatment. Sorry to bring it up again Mavs fans.
June 12th VS. Greece - 6:30am CT (Expect a tough, close, defensive match.)
June 17th VS. Argentina - 6:30am CT (Koreans have a decent chance to play giant killers.)
June 22nd VS. Nigeria - 1:30pm CT (2nd round spot likely on the line)
NEXT ON THE PITCH: JAPAN