Outright Odds: 250/1
Group G Winners: 10/1
South Korea shocked the football world four years ago when they beat Italy and Spain to reach the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup. It was a remarkable achievement. In the group stage, an opening match win over Poland and a shock 1-0 triumph over Portugal ensured they became the first Asian team to qualify from the group stage since Saudi Arabia in 1994.
In the second round they defeated Italy in extra time, a result which saw winning goal scorer Ahn Jung-Hwan sacked by his employers at Serie A club Perugia. They edged past Spain on penalties in the quarter finals before a narrow 1-0 defeat against Germany in the semis brought their fairytale run to an end.
Expectations have risen considerably since then and Guus Hiddink is a hard act to follow. During qualification Korea went through two coaches before fellow Dutchman Dick Advocaat took over in preparation for the finals in Germany.
South Korea were far from convincing during qualification and Hiddkink’s successor, HUmberto Coelho, lasted just two qualifying matches. He resigned after an embarrassing goalless draw against the Maldives whose recent pedigree includes a 12-0 defeat to Syria and 17-0 hammering against Iran.
Jo Bonfrere took over and despite guiding the team to their fifth successive World Cup finals, quit in August 2005 following lacklustre performances. Korea finished as runners up in their qualifying group but endured home and away defeats to Saudi Arabia and an away draw to lowly Uzbekistan.
While Hiddink enjoyed nearly half a season with the team four years ago in preparation for the 2002 finals, Advocaat, by comparison, has barely had a chance to get to know his squad.
South Korea will no longer be seen as an unknown quantity and a number of players are excelling at club level in Europe. Hiddink took a number of quality players with him to PSV Eindoven following the last tournament while Park Ji-Sung secured a move to Manchester United.
It can also be argued that Korea have struggled defensively since some of their veteran defenders retired since the last World Cup. Notably former captain and defensive lynchpin Myung Bo Hong who participated in the 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2002 finals, eventually retiring with 135 caps.
Following an exceptional run four years ago, South Korea could revert back to their old ways of not making it past the group stage. Expectation is at an all-time high but they could suffer a shock against Togo in their opening match who could be good enough for a draw.
Togo vs South Korea draw @ 9/4
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