When co-hosting the finals back in 2002 South Korea went wild with football fervor as the Taeguk Warriors reached the last four. Now they have qualified for their eighth straight finals after a campaign marked by a war of words with Iran. In South Africa, a solid side made it to the last-16 but since then there has been a managerial merry-go-round, with their current boss Hong Myung-bo, captain and hero of the 2002 campaign and South Korea's most capped player, the fourth man at the helm in four years.
However, he only took the post after the man who guided them over the qualification finishing line, Choi Kang-hee, was fired in June 2013 after a debacle with Iran. It had been a harrowing campaign as they lost a war of nerves with group A winners Iran, which culminated in an undignified slanging match and a home defeat 1-0 to the Persians. South Korea finished level with Uzbekistan, but had a better goal difference to thank for their qualification for Brazil. Upset at their manager's trash talk the authorities decided to go with Hong Myung-bo, who had guided the under-21's to a bronze medal at the London Games and had himself actually played at four World Cups. Hong's main challenge is to raise the team's confidence after only securing his furst win in his fifth game in charge, against minnows Haiti.
Area: 99,538 sq. km
Federation: Korean Football Association, founded in 1928, affiliated to FIFA since 1948.
Registered players: 31,000
Colours: Red jersey, blue shorts, red socks
World Cup appearances: 8 (1954, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010)
World Cup record: Semi-finals (2002), first round (2006)
Asian Nations Cup: winner (1956, 1960), finalist (1972, 1980, 1988), 3rd place (1964, 2000, 2007).
How they qualified: Exempt from rounds 1 and 2. In round 3 won group B with 13pts ahead of Lebanon (10), Kuwait (8) and the UAE (3) with 4 wins, 1 draw, 1 defeat, 14 goals for and 4 against - 4th round: 2nd in group A with 14pts behind Iran (16), and ahead of Uzbekistan (14), Qatar (7) and Lebanon (5), with 4 wins, 2 defeats, and 2 draws, 13 goals for, 7 against.
Top clubs: Suwong Blue Wings, Pohang Steelers, Pusan I.cons.
Key players: Hong Jeong-ho, Koo Ja-cheol, Son Heung-min, Lee Keun-ho
Coach: Hong Myung-bo (since June 2013)
To get things going again the former Olympic team coach has delved into his knowledge of the up-and-coming players, most of whom are already making inroads in the European game. Chief amongst these is Hong Jeong-ho, a 24-year-old defender mixing it up at Augsbourg in the German Bundesliga. In the middle Koo Ja-cheol is a natural leader and an efficient captain. He was the top scorer at the 2011 Asian Cup with five goals and also plays in Germany, at Wolfsburg.
In the same age group Kim Bo-kyung (Cardiff), Lee Chung-yong (Bolton Wanderers) and Ki Sung-yueng (Sunderland) are all first-choices in midfield and the very promising Son Heung-min (Bayer Leverkusen). Attack has too often been their weak point and right now they are relying on Park Chu-young (Watford). In 2002 the Taeguk Warriors, playing an Asian brand of total football under the astonishing Guus Hidink, eliminated Portugal, Italy and Spain only to be beaten by Germany in the semi-finals. It's hard to see Hong Myung-bo emulating that feat, but we can be sure the team will go down fighting.