2022 FIFA World Cup Team Previews: South Korea
The 2022 FIFA World Cup is less than a month away from kicking off in Qatar. Over the next 32 days, I will be previewing each team that will be taking part in the world’s most-watched event. Check out all of the team previews that have been done so far. Up next is South Korea.
South Korea had one of the biggest upsets at the 2018 World Cup, beating Germany in the last group stage match to knock out the defending champions. Since then, the “Taegeuk Warriors” have lost just a handful of matches. They dropped the last match of AFC World Cup Qualifying to the UAE but finished second in their group with one loss and two draws.
The 2022 World Cup could be South Korea’s shot to cause another surprise upset of a traditional powerhouse in Group H. In the FIFA men’s rankings, the “Taegeuk Warriors” find themselves ranked 28th.
World Cup Appearances
South Korea only qualified for one World Cup from 1930 to 1982 and that came in 1954. However, since 1982, the “Taegeuk Warriors” have appeared in every World Cup, starting in 1986. The 2022 World Cup will be their 10th straight appearance and 11th total appearance. The 10th straight qualification is the longest run by any team outside of Europe and South America.
Best Finish at a World Cup
The best finish for South Korea at a World Cup came in 2002 when they were co-hosts with Japan. In the 2002 World Cup, the “Taegeuk Warriors” finished top of their group before beating Italy and Spain to get to the semifinal. The semifinal appearance was the first by an Asian country at a World Cup. Their semifinal match came against Germany and the “Taegeuk Warriors” lost 1-0. They then lost the third-place match against Turkey 3-2 and finished fourth place which was the best finish by an Asian team in World Cup history.
There is only one player that is the star of South Korea. That is Son Heung-min. The Tottenham star is by far the best player on the “Taegeuk Warriors” but has not played since October due to an injury. While Son is expected to play at the 2022 World Cup, whether he’s fully healthy is a different matter. If he is healthy, then South Korea should have a chance of advancing but if not, they could be a quick out with an unreliable defense.
Their defense is the weakest area on the pitch except for Napoli’s Kim Min-jae. For Napoli, Kim has developed into an impressive center-back. He has played in all but one of Napoli’s 21 matches and has helped them to a large lead at the top of Serie A. This season Napoli has allowed just 12 goals in 15 league matches and a lot of that has to be credited to Kim’s play in the back. His center-back partner will be Kim Young-gwon. Kim Young-gwon is the second most capped player on the current “Taegeuk Warriors” team with 96 caps, trailing only Son (104).
Portuguese manager Paulo Bento took over South Korea following the 2018 World Cup. After a disappointing 2019 AFC Asian Cup that saw the “Taegeuk Warriors” go out in the quarterfinals, Bento guided his team to the 2019 EAFF E-1 Football Championship title. In the final round, South Korea became champions after a 1-0 win over Japan.
Biggest Group Game – vs. Uruguay on Nov. 24
The reason this match is the biggest for South Korea in the 2022 World Cup group stage is that it is their first match. With the health of Son in question, this match against Uruguay will show how healthy he is. If Son is back to full fitness he will cause issues for any defense including Uruguay’s. This match will also be very important for both teams to get out of Group H.
Behind Son, South Korea will cause some major trouble for teams in Group H. I see them losing once and getting out of the group as the second-place team after Portugal. Unfortunately finishing second in the group will match the “Taegeuk Warriors” up against Brazil in the Round of 16. That is where the 2022 FIFA World Cup will end for South Korea.
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