Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

South Korea national football team

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Sub-confederation  EAFF (East Asia)
FIFA code  KOR
Manager  Uli Stielike
Head coach  Uli Stielike
Top scorer  Cha Bum-kun (58)
Founded  1933
Captain  Ki Sung-yueng
South Korea national football team httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediaenthumb4

Nickname(s)  Taegeuk Warriors (태극전사) The Reds Red Devils (붉은 악마)
Most caps  Hong Myung-bo Cha Bum-kun (both 136)
Home stadium  Seoul World Cup Stadium
Association  Korea Football Association
Confederation  Asian Football Confederation (Asia)
Arenas/Stadiums  Seoul Olympic Stadium, Seoul World Cup Stadium

The Korea Republic national football team represents South Korea in international association football and is controlled by the Korea Football Association.


Since the 1960s, South Korea has emerged as a major football power in Asia and is historically the most successful Asian football team, having participated in eight consecutive and nine overall FIFA World Cup tournaments, the most for any Asian country. Despite initially going through five World Cup tournaments without winning a match, South Korea became the first and currently only Asian team to reach the semi-final stages when they co-hosted the 2002 tournament with Japan. They have since improved their ability to play on foreign soil and were able to reach the Round of 16 in the 2010 World Cup. South Korea won the first two AFC Asian Cup tournaments though they have been unable to win since, finishing second in 1972, 1980, 1988, and 2015, and third in 1964, 2000, 2007, and 2011. They also took the gold medal at the 1970, 1978, and 1986 Asian Games.

The team is commonly nicknamed "The Reds" by both fans and the media due to the color of their primary kit. The national team's supporting group is officially referred to as the Red Devils.


Koreans were not introduced to football until 1882, when British crew members played a game while their vessel was visiting the Incheon Port. Korea became a Japanese colony in 1910. In 1921, the first All Korea Football Tournament was held, and in 1928, The Korea Football Association was organized, which created a foundation to disseminate and develop football in Korea. In 1940, however, the Japanese Governor-General of Korea forced the Korea Football Association to dissolve.

Following the establishment of the Republic of Korea, the Korea Football Association (KFA) was reinstated in 1948 and joined FIFA, the international football governing body. The same year, the Korean national team made its international debut at the Olympic Games in London. The KFA joined the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) in 1954.


South Korea first entered the World Cup in 1954 as the second Asian team ever to compete in the World Cup after the Dutch East Indies. South Korea played games against Hungary and Turkey, losing 9–0 and 7–0 respectively (the game scheduled against West Germany was never played because neither were seeded in their group, as per that tournament's rules). It would take thirty-two years before South Korea was able to participate in the World Cup finals again.

South Korea would later participate in the first Asian Cup in 1956. They drew with Hong Kong but defeated Israel and South Vietnam to take first place. They hosted and won the second Asian Cup in 1960, winning all of their games. However, they failed to repeat this success and lost all their games in the 1964 Asian Cup and failed to qualify in 1968. They recovered in 1972 and took second place. They once again failed to qualify in 1976 but reached second place again in 1980.

In 1986, South Korea was able to qualify for the 1986 FIFA World Cup, held in Mexico, for the first time since 1954. They, however, failed to win a game despite the presence of Cha Bum-kun, at the time one of the best Asian players, losing 3–1 to Argentina, drawing 1–1 with Bulgaria, and losing 3–2 to Italy.

Their next major tournament was the 1988 AFC Asian Cup, in which they won all their games in the group stage and defeated China 2–1 in the semi-finals but lost on penalties 4–3 in the final against Saudi Arabia.


South Korea started the 1990s poorly. At the 1990 FIFA World Cup, they lost all their games against Spain 3–1, Uruguay 1–0, and Belgium 2–0. South Korea failed to qualify for the 1992 Asian Cup as well.

In the 1994 FIFA World Cup they managed to draw with Spain 2–2. Hong Myung-bo scored a goal and assisted teammate Seo Jung-won with the second, with both goals occurring in the last five minutes of the game. In their next game they earned another draw with Bolivia 0–0. In their last game against Germany they nearly managed another draw with Hwang Sun-hong and Hong Myung-bo each scoring a goal in the second half after being down 3–0 but they were unable to score thereafter and were defeated 3–2. In the 1996 Asian Cup they barely managed to make it out of the group stage as they ranked third on their group, losing to Kuwait on goal difference. A comparison made between all the third ranked teams in each group allowed South Korea to advance. However, they suffered a 2–6 loss to Iran in the quarter-finals, conceding five goals in the second half.

Afterwards, former South Korean legend Cha Bum-kun became the head coach going into the 1998 FIFA World Cup. After performing well in the qualification, however, the team played poorly in the tournament, losing to Mexico 3–1 and the Netherlands 5–0. Cha was sacked after the loss to the Netherlands. The team then managed a 1–1 draw against Belgium. In the 2000 AFC Asian Cup, South Korea managed to advance out of the group stage and defeated Iran 2–1 in the quarter-finals but were beaten by Saudi Arabia 2–1 in the semi-finals. They defeated China 1–0 to gain third-place.

Semifinalists: 2002 World Cup

South Korea co-hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup tournament with Japan. As they had never won a game in the World Cup previously, hopes were not very high. In addition there was pre-tournament criticism concerning Dutch coach Guus Hiddink, who many felt did not take his job seriously. However once the tournament began the South Korean team achieved their first ever victory in a World Cup with a 2–0 victory against Poland. Their next game was against the United States and earned a 1–1 draw, with striker Ahn Jung-hwan scoring a late game equalizer. Their last game was against the favored Portuguese side. Portugal earned two red cards in the match, reducing them to nine men and Park Ji-sung scored the winning goal in a 1–0 victory, allowing the South Korean team to qualify for the second round for the first time in their history. The team's success led to widespread euphoria from the Korean public, with many people joining the Red Devils, which gained widespread attention with their passionate support of the team.

South Korea's second round opponents were Italy, who they defeated 2–1 in a very physical match. The Korean team was awarded an early penalty but Ahn Jung-hwan's effort was saved by Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon. Christian Vieri then scored to put Italy ahead but Seol Ki-hyeon scored an equalizer in the 88th minute, allowing the game to go through to extra time. Francesco Totti was controversially sent off for an alleged dive and Ahn redeemed his missed penalty by scoring the winner with a headed golden goal, allowing them to advance to the quarter-final. South Korea faced Spain in the quarter-finals. Spain managed to score twice in this match, but both goals were cancelled by the referee officials. The game then went to the penalties and South Korea won the penalty shootout 5–3, and becoming the first Asian team to reach the final four.

The South Korean team's run was halted by a 1–0 loss to Germany in the semi-finals. They lost to Turkey 3–2 in the third-place match to gain fourth place. Team captain Hong Myung-bo received the Bronze Ball as the World Cup's third best player, the first Asian footballer to be awarded this. In addition Hong was selected for the team of tournament alongside teammate Yoo Sang-chul, the first and only time Asian footballers have been named. This level of success was unprecedented for a country that had never before won a game in the World Cup. They had gone further than any Asian team and upset several established European teams in the process, leading to an increase in the popularity of football in the country. Hiddink became a national hero in South Korea, becoming the first person to be granted honorary citizenship as well as being given a private villa.


Despite widespread pleas for him to stay, Hiddink resigned following the World Cup. After his departure there was a greater emphasis on hiring foreign coaches. As a result, Portuguese coach Humberto Coelho became the new manager. Under his management Korea participated in and won the first EAFF East Asian Cup in 2003. However, following shocking defeats to Oman and Vietnam and a hapless 0–0 draw against the Maldives, Coehlo was sacked. Dutch coach Jo Bonfrere then took over. They had less success the next year in the Asian Cup, losing to Iran in the quarter finals. South Korea hosted the East Asian Cup in 2005 but finished in last place.

Korea qualified for the 2006 World Cup after defeating Kuwait in the qualifiers, finishing second in Group B after Saudi Arabia. By this point Bonfrere had come under heavy criticism for the team's poor performance during the 2005 East Asian Cup as well as a 0–2 defeat to Saudi Arabia during World Cup qualification. He eventually resigned, and as a result, the Korean Football Association named Dick Advocaat the new coach to lead the team into the World Cup. During the 2006 World Cup, South Korea achieved their first World Cup victory outside Asia by beating Togo 2–1, with goals from Lee Chun-soo and Ahn Jung-hwan. Their next game was against France, who held the lead for most of the game but a goal by Park Ji-sung allowed the South Korean team to draw with the eventual finalists. This placed South Korea at the top of their group but they lost their last game 2–0 to Switzerland, which eliminated them from the tournament. Advocaat resigned after failing to reach the second round and was replaced by assistant coach Pim Verbeek, who had also worked under Hiddink during the 2002 World Cup.

Korea's next major tournament was the 2007 Asian Cup. The team struggled in the group stages without key players Lee Young-pyo, Park Ji-sung, and Seol Ki-hyeon. The team drew its first game 1–1 against Saudi Arabia but suffered a shocking 1–2 defeat to Bahrain. They defeated Indonesia in their final group game and managed to scrape through with four points. They defeated Iran in the quarterfinals via penalty shootout following a 0–0 draw. Korea entered another penalty shootout after another goalless draw to Iraq but were defeated. They then beat Japan on penalties once more to gain third place. Later, it was discovered that during the tournament, four veteran players, including then captain Lee Woon-jae, broke team rules to go on a late-night drinking binge in an Indonesian bar. Each of the four players were banned from national team participation for at least two years. Pim Verbeek resigned after the tournament, taking blame for the team's unsatisfactory performance as they had failed to score a single goal following the group stage and had to resort to penalties for three games in a row. He also criticized the unrealistic expectations from the fans. Afterwards, South Korea chose its first Korean coach since 2000 when Huh Jung-moo, who had coached the team in 2000, took the helm for the second time. Under his management, the South Korean team managed to win the 2008 East Asian Cup, go undefeated for 27 consecutive games in 2009, and qualify for the 2010 World Cup.


South Korea won the 2010 World Cup AFC qualification with 16 points – seven wins and seven draws in total. In the 2010 World Cup they were placed in Group B. They won their first game against Greece 2–0, with goals from Lee Jung-soo and Park Ji-sung. They then faced Argentina and suffered a large loss 4–1, including an own goal by forward Park Chu-young.

They then obtained a 2–2 draw in a hard fought match against Nigeria, with Lee Jung-Soo scoring in the tournament once more and Park Chu-young redeeming his own goal from the previous game by scoring from a free-kick. This allowed them to make it to the second round for the first time on foreign soil. In the knockout stage they met Uruguay, who took an early lead with a goal from Luis Suárez. South Korea equalized in the second half after Lee Chong-yong scored his second goal of the tournament but South Korea conceded another goal by Suárez in the 80th minute. Despite maintaining the majority of the possession in the second half, South Korea was unable to equalize again and were eliminated from the tournament.

Following the World Cup, Cho Kwang-rae took over as the coach. In the 2011 AFC Asian Cup they started out with a 2–1 victory over Bahrain. They drew 1–1 with Australia in their second game and finished the group stage with a 4–1 victory over India. South Korea finished with seven points but was second in the group after Australia on goal difference. They played Iran in the quarterfinals and after extra time beat them 1–0. They faced rivals Japan in the semi-finals. South Korea took the lead after Ki Sung-yueng converted a penalty in the 23rd minute. Japan scored an equalizer and the game went to extra time. Japan went ahead during the first half of extra time but Korea scored an equalizer at the end of the game, forcing the game into penalties. Korea failed to score, with Japanese goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima saving two penalites and were beaten 3–0 in the penalty shoot-out. They defeated Uzbekistan 3–2 to earn third place for the second Asian Cup in a row. They managed to win the Fair Play Award and midfielder Koo Ja-cheol finished as the tournament's top scorer with five goals.

Following the Asian Cup, key players Park Ji-sung and Lee Young-pyo retired and the team's performance began to decline. Following a humiliating 3–0 loss to Japan and a shocking 1–2 loss to Lebanon in Beirut, Cho was unceremoniously sacked despite an initial 6–0 victory over Lebanon on home soil. He was hurriedly replaced with Choi Kang-hee with the task of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup as the team was in jeopardy of breaking its long-running streak of World Cup qualifications. Under Choi South Korea narrowly qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil by finishing second in their group via goal difference. Choi's contract was up after the conclusion of the qualification matches and was replaced by former player Hong Myung-bo, who had captained the 2002 World Cup team and coached the under-23 team to a bronze medal finish at the 2012 Olympics.

2014 FIFA World Cup

Despite high expectations under Hong, South Korea continued its run of poor form. A victory against Costa Rica was followed by losses to Mexico and the United States and shortly prior to the World Cup the team registered dismal losses against Tunisia and Ghana. South Korea started its World Cup campaign against Russia, with forward Lee Keun-ho scoring in the second half after coming on as a substitute for Park Chu-young. Russia equalized six minutes later and the game ended in a 1–1 draw. South Korea suffered a 4–2 loss to Algeria in their second game, conceding three goals by half time with no shots on goal. Son Heung-min and Koo Ja-cheol both scored goals in the second half but the South Koreans were unable to equalize, leaving them at the bottom of their group. Their final game was against Belgium and despite Belgian midfielder Steven Defour earning a red card in the match they were able to win 1–0, eliminating South Korea and leaving them without a single win for the first time since 1998.

The team's poor performance resulted in a hostile reaction from fans, who threw toffees at them upon their return. Hong was heavily criticized for the perceived lack of strategy and team selection controversies. Following the World Cup, Hong initially intended to continue in his position until the 2015 Asian Cup, but relented and resigned under heavy media pressure along with several KFA associates in responsibility for the failures at the World Cup. The KFA reinstated Lee Yong-soo as its technical committee director, who held the same position during Hiddink's success in 2002.

Following the World Cup, the South Korean team's rank, as well as public support of the team, continued to decline. The team was ranked 57th before the tournament and dropped to a low of 69th by the end of the year, their worst ever. After initial negotiations with Bert van Marwijk broke down, the KFA appointed Uli Stielike in October as the new manager with a contract up to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Shortly after the announcement, the national team managed a 3–1 victory over Venezuela, their first victory in almost nine months. However, they suffered a 0–1 loss to Uruguay shortly after. Stielike officially took over the team following the loss to Uruguay. Under his management, the team won its first game against Paraguay 2–0 but were beaten by Costa Rica 3–1 shortly after.

2015 AFC Asian Cup

South Korea automatically qualified for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup due to their third-place finish in the 2011 tournament. They were drawn into Group A with host country Australia, Kuwait and Oman. They began the tournament with a 1–0 win over Oman, with Cho Young-cheol scoring the winning goal. They obtained another narrow 1–0 victory in their second game against Kuwait, the team's first back-to-back victory in over a year. The victory allowed the team to automatically qualify for the quarterfinals, but their shaky performance was criticized. In their final group stage match Korea managed to find its form and defeated host and tournament favorites Australia with the same result in their final group stage match and qualified to the knockout stage as the Group A winner. However, key players Koo Ja-cheol and Lee Chung-yong suffered injuries and had to leave the tournament. South Korea defeated Uzbekistan in the quarter-finals with two goals from Son Heung-min in extra time and advanced to semi-finals for the tenth time, a tournament record. Another 2–0 victory over Iraq in the semi-finals allowed them to advance to the final for the first time since 1988. In the final, South Korea faced Australia in a rematch of their group stage match. Australia took the lead in the first half but South Korea managed to equalize in the final minutes of the game, forcing the match into extra time. However, Australia managed to score again, defeating South Korea 2–1. Despite the loss in the final, the team was praised for its performance as they had managed to reach the final without conceding any goals. Public confidence, which had fallen to an all-time low following the World Cup, was restored and the team was given a hero's welcome upon their return.


For the combined qualification matches for the 2018 World Cup and the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, South Korea was drawn with Kuwait, Lebanon, Myanmar, and Laos in Group G of the second round. After winning seven matches without conceding a goal, South Korea qualified for the third round of the AFC qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup.


The official supporter group of the national team are the Red Devils, which was founded in 1995. The Red Devils are known for their passionate support of the team and commonly referred to as the 12th member of the team. The most common cheer is shouting "대~한민국 (Dae~han Minguk, Republic of Korea)" followed by five claps.


The traditional rival of South Korea is Japan. The South Korea football team has played 75 matches against the Japanese football team with 40 victories, 22 draws, and 13 losses. The football rivalry is long-seated and is often seen as an extension of an overall rivalry that runs deep between the two nations. Controversies occasionally flare up in matches between the two nations.

South Korea also possesses a strong rivalry with North Korea, though matches are infrequent due to diplomatic and security reasons.

South Korea has had great success against China, with China failing to defeat them in twenty-eight competitive matches before finally winning a game in 2010.

Recently, a rivalry has also developed with Iran. The two teams have met in five consecutive Asian Cup quarterfinal matches (1996, 2000, 2004, 2007, and 2011), with each team recording two wins, two losses, and a tie. They have played against each other officially since 1958, totalling 28 matches as of January 2015, including seven World Cup qualifiers. These two teams were among the strongest Asian national football teams during the 1960s and 1970s. Since then, the teams have developed one of Asia's greatest rivalries. Although the teams only had one chance to play against each other in the final match of the AFC Asian Cup, in 1972, they have faced each other five consecutive times at the quarterfinals stage since 1996. Iran leads the series with 13 wins, 7 draws and 9 losses.

Kit evolution

Red has been the traditional color of the national team, leading to the nickname "The Reds" by fans as well as leading to the namesake of the supporter group Red Devils. The away colors have varied between white and blue. In 1994, the home kit shifted from red to white, but in 1995, the red returned as home color, paired with black shorts (that returned since the 1970s)

Recent results and fixtures

  Win   Draw   Loss

Current squad

The following is a list of players that were called up for the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers on 23 and 28 March 2017 against China and Syria.

Caps and goals correct as of 23 March 2017, after the match against China.

Recent call-ups

The following players have also been called up to the South Korea squad within last 12 months. Retired players are not listed.

INJ Withdrew from the squad due to an injury.


Statistics below are from matches which the Korea Football Association consider as official.

As of 27 March 2015

All-time records

As of 11 November 2016 *Denotes draws include knockout matches decided on penalty kicks. **Red border color indicates tournament was held on home soil.

Regional competitions

  • EAFF East Asian Cup
  • Winners (3): 2003, 2008, 2015 Runners-up (1): 2010 03 ! Third Place (1): 2013 Fourth Place (1): 2005
  • Dynasty Cup
  • Winners (1): 1990 Runners-up (2): 1992, 1995 03 ! Third Place (1): 1998

    Continental competitions

  • AFC Asian Cup
  • Winners (2): 1956, 1960 Runners-up (4): 1972, 1980, 1988, 2015 03 ! Third Place (4): 1964, 2000, 2007, 2011
  • CONCACAF Gold Cup
  • Fourth Place (1): 2002

    Worldwide competitions

  • FIFA World Cup
  • Fourth Place (1): 2002

    Olympics team

  • Olympic Games
  • 03 ! Bronze Medal (1): 2012
  • Asian Games
  • 01 ! Gold Medal (4): 1970, 1978, 1986, 2014 02 ! Silver Medal (3): 1954, 1958, 1962 03 ! Bronze Medal (3): 1990, 2002, 2010 Fourth Place (2): 1994, 2006

    Other awards

  • FIFA World Cup Most Entertaining Team
  • Winners (1): 2002


  • As of 10 June 2015
  • Nike, KT, Hana Bank, Naver, Hyundai Motor Company, Kyobo Life Insurance Company, Asiana Airlines, Hite, Caffe Bene, Coca-Cola, Seoul Milk


    South Korea national football team Wikipedia