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South Korea's record in World Cup group stage openers

South Korea face Uruguay this Thursday for their 2022 World Cup opener in Qatar but how have the Taegeuk Warriors faired in their previous curtain-raisers? 
Image: CARL DE SOUZA/AFP via Getty Images

South Korea's World Cup group opener record reads three wins, two draws, and two losses from their 10 previous finals. Their last win in a World Cup group opener was in 2010 - a 2-0 victory over Greece thanks to goals from Lee Jung-soo (pictured above) and Park Ji-sung. The 2010 tournament proved to be one of the more productive World Cups for Korea as they made it to the Round of 16 before being eliminated by Uruguay.

Korea had won the two previous group openers, too, and went on a run of four unbeaten from 2002 to 2014 with three wins and one draw from their group openers, the run came to a half at Russia 2018 with a 1-0 loss to Sweden.

Memorable Matches

As one of the host nations in 2002, South Korea famously went on to reach the semifinals. Their journey began with a 2-0 victory over Poland which was South Korea's first ever at a World Cup finals. Hwang Sun-hong and Yoo Sang-chul both etched their names into Korean football folklore with goals on that afternoon in Busan.

Highlights

A comeback from 2-0 down to earn a 2-2 draw against a 10-man Spain at USA '94 will be seen as one of South Korea's more memorable World Cup matches. After a goalless first 45, the Spanish broke the deadlock five minutes after the restart with Julio Salinas sliding in on the edge of the six-yard box. Jon Andoni Goikoetxea doubled Spain's advantage four minutes later with a header from more or less the same spot.

But Hong Myung-bo got the fight-back underway with a goal in the 85th minute with a deflected free-kick wrong-footing Spanish goalkeeper Santiago Canizares before Seo Jung-won, on as a substitute, was played in to make it 2-2 in the 90th minute. At the time, Seo was with Sangmu FC and became the first Korean player of the K League era to score at a World Cup while on military service.

Highlights


FNR


First Goals

South Korea have scored in seven of their 10 World Cup openers, the only times they failed to do so was in 1954 in a 9-0 hammering to Hungary, the 2-0 defeat to Belgium in 1990, and the 1-0 reverse to Sweden in 2018.

Korea tend to score the first goal in a World Cup opener in the second half with four goals scored in the second 45 and three in the first. The average time of goals scored is 48 minutes while the averages for each respective half are 20 and 70 respectively. 

Ha Seok-ju's 28th-minute strike against Mexico at France '98 was the first time South Korea had taken the lead in any World Cup finals match. Ha, though, was dismissed just a minute later for a late challenge on Mexico's number seven Ramón Ramírez and Korea went on to lose 3-1.

In 2006, South Korea's first goal of the World Cup was a Lee Chun-soo's equaliser against Togo. Ahn Jung-hwan made it 2-1 on 72 minutes to give South Korea their first-ever come-from-behind victory in a World Cup group stage. The 2-1 Round of 16 win over Italy in 2002, of course, came in extra time via a golden goal. 

South Korea's World Cup Group Opener Results in Full

1954 9-0 loss to Hungary
1986 3-1 loss to Argentina 
1990 2-0 loss to Belgium
1994 2-2 draw with Spain
1998 3-1 loss to Mexico
2002 2-0 win over Poland
2006 2-1 win over Togo
2010 2-0 win over Greece
2014 1-1 draw with Russia
2018 1-0 loss to Sweden 

South Korea's 2022 World Cup opener is against Uruguay on November 24th, full match preview can be found here.



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