South Korea has qualified for its ninth consecutive World Cup. The players returned home Thursday after their draw with Uzbekistan in their final qualifying match proved to be enough to send the team through to next year’s tournament.
However, the team has been criticized for its recent poor performances in the qualifiers.
South Korea could only secure a 0-0 draw in its Group A match against Uzbekistan on Tuesday, but still managed to qualify for the World Cup finals as its nearest challengers Syria were held to a 2-2 draw with Iran.
Korea has now advanced to the FIFA World Cup finals for the ninth consecutive time since the 1986 tournament in Mexico. It is the first country in Asia to achieve such a feat, and the sixth in the world
Only about a third of the 209 FIFA member countries have qualified for the main tournament at least once.
Brazil has made it into the finals for 21 consecutive World Cups, the most in the world. Germany trails Brazil, followed by Italy, Argentina and Spain.
In Asia, Japan has advanced to the World Cup tournament six times in a row, ranking behind South Korea. However in the FIFA rankings, Korea is placed at 49th, far behind Iran at 24th, Japan in 44th, and Australia at 45th.
Coach Shin Tae-yong took the place of former coach Uli Stielike to improve the chances of Korea securing a spot at the 2018 Russia World Cup. But Korea was held to scoreless draws in both matches against Iran and Uzbekistan since Shin took over.
South Korea only scored 11 goals and dropped ten points during their qualifying campaign, showing how the team has problems in both attack and defense.
Some say the fundamental issue lies not in the coaching but in the players’ competence and ability. If team strategies don’t work, individual skills need to shine through.
At the 2014 Brazil World Cup, Korea did not make it to the round of 16. There are fears this may be repeated next year if the Taegeuk Warriors fail to significantly improve in the build-up to the World Cup.
Coach Shin has pledged to play a more attacking style of soccer in the future.