GROUP H
Korea Republic

THE 60-SECOND OVERVIEW

Asia’s most successful World Cup team are preparing for an eighth successive appearance, hoping for the Korean hat to be tossed into the knockout stage for a third time in four tournaments.

It would be quite a turnaround for a squad that struggled in qualification. As soon as that finished, 2002 skipper Hong Myong-bo stepped in as coach, aiming to build a 2014 version of the side he led to bronze at the 2012 Olympics. Young, quick and increasingly confident after a decent draw, Korea look good going forward – just don’t look at what is happening at the other end.

THE DREAM

Russia, Algeria and Belgium hold few fears. Park Chu-young puts his Arsenal nightmare behind him, Ki Sung-yeung repeats his early Sunderland form, Son Heung-min is at his explosive best, the defence holds firm for once and Belgium have already qualified by the time they meet.

Securing a place in the knockout stage takes all the pressure off and a young team grows in confidence and starts to show that it can play. In the knockout stage there are shades of 2002 with the slaying of a genuine giant (Germany or Portugal in the Round of 16, possibly Argentina or France in the quarters).

THE NIGHTMARE

Coach Hong isn’t the type to have nightmares but if he does, they are sure to revolve around the defence that needs a modern version of him and often struggles with set pieces. Still inexperienced, Hong could be outfoxed by Fabio Capello and defeat against Russia puts the pressure on against Algeria.

The North Africans may not quite be the guaranteed three points that many think and complacency could be punished. With Belgium next, the thought of picking up just a solitary point or even worse in a relatively comfortable group is what all in Korean football fear.

THE STATS
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PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO...

BE HAILED A GENIUS: PARK CHU-YOUNG

He may have played just seven minutes of league football for Arsenal since joining the club in 2011, but there's plenty else to occupy the time of a man with an IQ above 150.

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO...

PROVOKE STAR WARS REFERENCES: KIM SHIN-WOOK

He's 6ft 5in and known to some as "Wookie", but the striker isn't quite as hairy (and isn’t anyone’s sidekick), and his abilities at co-piloting the Millennium Falcon are as yet unknown.

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO...

SALUTE THE NATIONAL FLAG: LEE KEUN-HO

The 2012 Asian Player of the Year may be a creative force but as he is currently serving in the army, he will salute the flag rather than put his hand over his heart.

DID YOU KNOW?

Hong Myong-bo was one of only two asians (along with Hidetoshi Nakata) named in Pele's 2004 LIST of the 100 greatest living players.

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Almost guaranteeing goals at either end, Korea will be good to watch. They will expect to clear an open group and maybe make the quarters.