South Korea has made 11 appearances in the history of the World Cup, the most among any of the Asian teams. They notably advanced to the semifinals in 2002, when they shared hosting duties with Japan, but they haven’t advanced past the group stage since. With Portugal, Ghana, and Uruguay in their group along with Uruguay, who eliminated the Taegeuk Warriors in the round of 16 in 2010, the Taegeuk Warriors have their work cut out for them if they hope to advance this winter. Heung-Min Son of South Korea will shine brightly if their opponents’ talents, Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and Luis Suarez of Uruguay, are waning.
The Tottenham attacker excelled in their strong qualification campaign, winning seven and losing only one of their ten games to place second behind Iran. However, Paulo Bento’s team has had a mixed 2022 with victories against Egypt and Chile sandwiched by crushing losses to Brazil and Japan, as well as a lackluster draw in September against Costa Rica. Four years ago, South Korea stunned Germany 2-0 to eliminate the defending champions from the World Cup. If they want to have a successful tournament in Qatar, they will need more performances along those lines.
Son’s disappointing start to the season—in which he failed to score in Tottenham’s opening eight games—would have caused Bento some minor anxiety. But any concerns about his form were allayed by a 13-minute hat-trick against Leicester and goals in both of South Korea’s September friendlies. But it does make one wonder if Bento has a backup plan in case his star doesn’t go off in Qatar. Hwang Hee-Chan of Wolves scored the opening goal in the tie with Costa Rica, while Hwang Ui-jo, who started that game as the main striker, will be trying to win over Nottingham Forest supporters after joining the club this summer before being loaned to Olympiacos.
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