In-form South Koreans set to leave their mark on Group B
Currently 47th in Fifa’s world rankings and with few household names, there may be a tendency to label South Korea as Group B’s whipping boys. Yet, given current form and a recent World Cup record to be proud of, Hung Jung-Moo’s side will be anything but.
They made light of qualifying, remaining unbeaten in both phases of the campaign and topping their group ahead of Saudi Arabia and old chums and fellow World Cup finalists North Korea.
And while results from friendly matches can often be misleading given the tendency for national managers to experiment with their line-ups, it’s still impressive to note that South Korea have beaten Paraguay, Australia, Senegal, Finland, Japan, Ivory Coast and Ecuador in the last 12 months.
There’s no doubting that if Argentina, Nigeria and Greece are noting down their fixture against the South Koreans as a guaranteed three points, they could be in for a nasty shock.
It was under the leadership of Guus Hiddink in 2002 when the nation really hit new heights, reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup on their own soil, dispatching Portugal, Italy and Spain along the way.
It meant that expectation levels were raised in 2006, when they could count themselves as unfortunate to go out in the group stages by just a point, despite defeating Togo and drawing with eventual finalists France.
Overcoming the football A-listers of Argentina is likely to be one feat too far, but with in-form Premier League duo Chung-Yong Lee and Ji-Sung Park on opposing wings, they have outlets capable of causing Nigerian and Greek defences considerable bother. They might not quite have enough to squeeze into the world cup last 16, but they’re a good bet to overturn the uninspiring Greeks in the opening group game.