WORLD CUP HISTORY: South Africa will mark South Korea’s eighth World Cup appearance and seventh successive. It was in 2002 when the country came alive as World Cup co-hosts, making it to the semi-finals and finishing fourth place overall. To this day, former coach Guus Hiddink is worshipped there.
QUALIFICATION: Current coach Huh Jung-Moo would like to duplicate Hiddink’s success, and enjoyed a strong qualifying campaign. Undefeated throughout, they beat out arch rivals North Korea for top spot in the final phase of qualification. Twelve goals for and only four against suggests a balanced squad, but inconsistent results since qualifying raises some flags.
KEY PLAYER: Ji-Sung Park. When Sir Alex Ferguson routinely picks a player to star in the biggest and most important matches, then that player is generally rather special. That’s the case for the South Korean captain. The midfielder is a tireless worker, technically gifted, and has the ability to be the game breaker that the team has lacked in previous tournaments.
EXPECTATIONS: Argentina should walk away with first place in Group B, but the rest of the squads are all evenly matched. Nigeria has African home-field advantage, and should enter as favourites for the second spot. South Korea will need a strong performance to steal that spot from the African nation, and you can never count out the grinders from Greece from causing problems too.