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2022 World Cup Team Preview: South Korea

Tenth Consecutive World Cup for the Tigers of Asia

Feisty Underdogs

That’s the best term to describe South Korea’s national team: feisty. The Tigers of Asia will be playing in their 10th consecutive World Cup, 11th overall, and will try to pull off another stunner, as they did in 2002 and 2010.

Portugal and Uruguay are the clear soccer betting favorites to win Group H, but again, Son Heung-min, South Korea’s top player, and the rest of the cast are well known for not giving up easily. It’s time to learn a bit more about one of the most consistent teams from the Asian Football Confederation.

South Korea's Hwang Ui-jo (front) celebrates his goal during the international football friendly match between South Korea and Brazil
Anthony Wallace / AFP

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How Did They Get to Qatar 2022?

Being one of the AFC powerhouses, South Korea began its road to Qatar 2022 in the second round. They ended up winning Group H without losing a single game (5-1-0). Plus, they scored 22 goals and only allowed one. No other team allowed less goals than them.

The thing is they didn’t face strong opponents. The toughest was Lebanon and they beat them 2-1 at home and drew 0-0 on the road. As if that wasn’t enough, North Korea withdrew due to safety concerns related to COVID-19, meaning the Tigers of Asia played two games less than the other group winners.

Things got a bit more complicated in the third and final rounds. South Korea had to face stronger opponents such as Iran and the United Arab Emirates. In fact, Iran ended up winning Group A with 25 points, two more than the Tigers of Asia. Once again, no other team allowed less goals than South Korea with three. In other words, we’re talking about a well-balanced team.

Individually, as expected, Heung-min finished as the team’s top scorer with seven goals.

Head Coach & Top Players

The Tigers of Asia have a well-experienced head coach in Paulo Bento. As a player, he represented Portugal in the 2000 EURO and the 2002 World Cup. He also played for several well-known clubs such as Benfica, Sporting Lisbon, and Oviedo.

As a coach, Bento began his career in the youth academy of Sporting Lisbon. Later, he took over the senior team for four years. That was enough for him to be appointed Portugal’s head coach toward the 2012 EURO and the 2014 WC. The Navigators qualified for both, but couldn’t meet expectations. After that, Bento coached several clubs until South Korea knocked on his door in 2018.

With the Lions of Asia, he owns a 33-12-7 record. Besides leading them to the 2022 WC, he also led them to the EAFF E-1 Football Championship in 2019.

Regarding the top players, we already talked about Heung-min. Therefore, it’s time to talk about Lee Jae-sung and Hwang Hee-chan. Despite being midfielders, both are certified, scorers. Jae-sung plays for Mainz 05 in the Bundesliga, while Hee-chan plays for Wolverhampton in the English Premier League. The two of them, alongside Heung-min, can become a real headache to opposing defenses.

Defensively, Kim Min-jae deserves some praise as he’s currently playing for Napoli, one of the hottest teams in Europe. Again, we’re talking about a well-balanced team.

South Korea in the 2022 World Cup

South Korea is in Group H and will face Uruguay, Ghana, and Portugal, in that order. The Tigers of Asia are offering a +1200 price in the sportsbook to finish atop the standings, same as Ghana.

South Korea is capable of stunning both Uruguay and Portugal. Besides being a well-balanced team, we’re talking about a disciplined side. Plus, their stamina is second to none.

Individually, Heung-min is offering a +10000 price to win the Golden Boot. There’s no doubt that the team heavily depends on him.

History of South Korea & the World Cup

South Korea’s first WC was in 1954 and it was terrible. They played two games and lost with a combined score of 16-0. After that, they had to wait for 32 years, returning to soccer’s grandest stage in 1986. They haven’t missed a single edition since.

Their best result was in 2002 when they co-hosted the event with Japan. The Tigers of Asia won Group D, and later stunned Italy and Spain in the knockout stages. They ended up losing in the Semifinals against Germany.

They also advanced to the Round of 16 in 2010 after finishing second in Group B. They lost 2-1 to Uruguay in the Round of 16. Hey, that means their match in Qatar 2022 will be kind of a rematch.

Heung-min is the team’s top scorer in the WC alongside with Jung Hwan Ahn and Ji Sung Park. Each has scored three goals, which means Tottenham’s player will have a great opportunity to grab first place only for himself.

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