Korean Fans Thoughts and Expectations for Russia 2018

We spoke to Tim Lee (@korfan12) writer at the excellent Tavern of the Taeguk Warriors (@taeguk_warrior) to try and get a feeling of how Korea builds up to a World Cup, and their expectations of how far they think South Korea can go in the tournament.

These questions were asked before the draw was made. Korea ended up being paired with Germany, Mexico and Sweden.

What are Koreans fans expectations of the South Korean team at World Cup?

Koreans traditionally expect a Round of 16 qualification - that's the gold standard. It's wishful thinking, but a country only 16 years removed from Asia's greatest footballing exploit (in my opinion) when Korea made it to the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup still holds Korea to that standard. That said, poor qualification and recent turmoil probably does put a damp on such expectations.

How does the country feel in the build-up to the world cup and does everyone get behind the team during the finals?

As a whole, fans are cautiously optimistic, but as I mentioned, expectant. I don't doubt that the whole country will get behind the team fervently, but in truth, they can be quick to turn against the team if things go wrong (as they so often have). I think anticipation will slowly mount as they get closer to the World Cup, but to be totally honest the fever really hasn't hit yet, perhaps because of the team’s recent struggles at home (the 0-0 against Iran in Seoul left a lot of fans disappointed and bitter).

Which teams do you think most people would like to draw tomorrow?

Korean fans just want to avoid the nightmare draw of Spain-Brazil or something of the like. They will certainly be happy with a Pot 1/2 team that gives them a chance (Poland, Russia, and the recently slain Colombia are the favourites) and in truth, any Pot 3 is a beatable one on Korea's best day. It will really depend on the top half of the draw, as that's who we need to dislodge to qualify for the knockout stages.

Who will be the stand out players? Who will be the players to watch out for that people outside of South Korea are unlikely to know about?

Standout players: Son Heung-min has a huge role to play in a counter-attacking 4-4-2, as he's the one scoring the goals or else... Ki Sungyueng will need to be the midfield general, press intelligently and dictate play going forwards

Kwon Changhoon and Lee Jaesung are new faces for non-Korean fans... Kwon plays at Dijon, Lee is a key part of Jeonbuk's domestic dynasty (3 titles and 1 ACL in past 4 seasons). Both will operate as wide midfielders in the 4-4-2 system but will be integral to the press and the transition to a quick, vibrant counter-attack. Hard runners, smart passers, each in their own different ways.

How have the warm-up games been going so far?

So-so. October was awful, with away shellackings by Russia and Morocco (4-2 and 3-1) in a 3-5-2 system that just didn't suit the side whatsoever (playing Lee Chung-Yong at RWB ... what a disaster against Morocco that was, he's never played the position). November was much improved, with a compact shape (4-4-2, as mentioned), defensive solidity (save for set pieces/counter-attack, Korea's traditional Achilles heel) and a win - a win! - Against Colombia before a hard-fought draw against Serbia.


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