1954, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010.
Action Images / ReutersPaolo Cocco
Key player: Ki Sung-Yueng (Sunderland).
The highly technical midfielder has worked his way up to the Premier League, where he is on loan at Sunderland through stints at FC Seoul, Celtic and Swansea City, who still own his rights. At 25, he is easily Korea Republic's most accomplished midfielder, and perhaps the best player his country has produced since Park Ji-Sung.
Action ImagesPaul Childs
Far and away Asia’s most successful team at the World Cup, the Korea Republic hasn’t missed a World Cup since 1982. Certainly, they haven’t looked good every time out. It took them until their sixth World Cup appearance to even win a game, losing 10 of their first 14 contests on the world stage. But when they did, they went on a run into the semifinals in front of their home crowds back in 2002, perhaps still the most surprising run to the final four ever seen at the World Cup. Another round of 16 appearance in 2010 showed that the Korea Republic were no one-hit wonders.
Action ImagesPaul Thomas
The trouble with punching so laughably high above your weight for a single World Cup is that the shadow this one-off performance will cast over all future teams will be long and unavoidable. The Korea Republic henceforth will be measured and weighed against that 2002 incarnation, that rode a wave of patriotism, momentum and, frankly, luck into the semifinals on their home turf. Chances are no successors will ever replicate that accomplishment. The captain of that team, Hong Myong-Bo, is now the national team manager. And he tried desperately to convince their best player, the aforementioned Park, to come out of the international retirement to no avail. And so Hong is left with a very young squad. It’s quite possible that none of his World Cup starters will be over 25 this summer.
Action ImagesJason Cairnduff
How they got here
But for a pair of losses to surprise qualifiers Iran, the Korea Republic went undefeated in group A of the AFC fourth round, winning four and tying two. The Korea Republic perhaps went through the motions a little bit, but then qualification has become practically automatic for them.
Getty ImagesChung Sung-Jun
Peachy draw to say the least. The Korea Republic were only ever going to stand a chance with a very soft draw. And that’s exactly what they got. Belgium, while a budding juggernaut are inexperienced. Russia are in disarray and Algeria don’t strike fear in anyone. Among this Group H bunch, the Korea Republic don’t look so bad in this situation.
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Round of 16 prospects
Look bleak. Group H crosses over with Group G, meaning Korea Republic would face any of Germany, Portugal, Ghana or the United States. And even if it’s one of the latter two, that would probably be a task that’s beyond the capabilities of this young Korean side.
AFP/Getty ImagesARIS MESSINIS
The generation that took the world by storm in 2002 has come and gone. Their successors don’t quite measure up. Ki and Lee Chung-Yong form a solid foundation to the midfield. Park Chu-Young and Ji Dong-Wong are serviceable forwards. And unless they catch lightning in a bottle again, a group stage exit seems likely.