World Cup prediction: South Korea
After four years of waiting, the time has come. Another World Cup is here and our bloggers across all 32 competing countries have predicted the fate that awaits their team. The country's "outlook" gives a general view of their situation ahead of the tournament, while "pitfalls" has a look at any potential problems. Elsewhere, each country will predict their top scorer and breakout star while also suggesting how far they can go.
There have been a couple of injuries but, apart from left back Kim Jin-soo, nothing too serious. Preparation has gone well in the long term, in the sense that there has been plenty of it; lots of games have been played against teams from different continents in lots of different locations, and there have been training camps in Brazil.
In the short term, the friendly defeat against Tunisia in Seoul on May 28 was disappointing, but a one-off toothless performance can be written off as rustiness on the part of certain players -- as long as it is only a one-off.
There are uncertainties and questions surrounding the Korean team that will only really be answered in the first game against Russia; even at this late stage, nobody is really sure what kind of Korea will turn up.
All 32 team previews and predictions
Brazil | Cameroon | Croatia | Mexico
Australia | Netherlands | Chile | Spain
Colombia | Greece | Ivory Coast | Japan
Costa Rica | England | Italy | Uruguay
Ecuador | France | Honduras | Switzerland
Argentina | Bosnia | Iran | Nigeria
Germany | Ghana | Portugal | USA
Algeria | Belgium | Russia | South Korea
The usual issue at the back has not changed for a number of years. There is a tendency of the backline to switch off at crucial times, and the goal that Tunisia scored in Seoul is a fine example of that -- the ball is given away, the team is slow to transition from attack to defence with a lack of communication, and an opponent is then allowed to run unchallenged to inside the Korean area.
There is also a lack of leadership at the back, which exacerbates the situation, and a goalkeeper whose form in the past year or two has not been totally convincing.
Son Heung-min is the biggest potential weapon and if he fires, he could do so in a big way. The Bayer Leverkusen forward is explosive on his day, and Bundesliga fans are accustomed to seeing the 21-year-old bursting free from deep, leaving defenders for dead and unleashing an unstoppable shot into the top or bottom corner past all manner of flailing goalkeepers.
He has not yet managed to show his best form for his country, though he has not always been given the best opportunities. Of late, there have been signs of more confidence when wearing the famous red shirt. If that continues into the World Cup then Korea has a player who can become one of the stars of the tournament.
One of the lesser-discussed issues concerning the team of late has been the lack of a classy and/or influential defensive midfielder. This is a crucial position for a team. Ki Seung-yeung takes one of the two positions in front of defence, but breaking up play and winning the ball is not the forte of the cultured English Premier League star.
Finding the right partner was crucial and it was a role that was up for grabs until recently. Han Kook-young has, just, been at the head of the line for a while, and against Tunisia finally showed why. He was the standout player in a position that makes it difficult to stand out. Korea need the same, and more, in Brazil.
PREDICTION: Into the knockout round
South Korea will finish second in their group, but it will be tight.