Last time they came back from a World Cup, South Korea players were pelted with candies.

After enduring three poor performances by the team in Brazil four years ago, fans were waiting at Incheon International Airport to make their anger felt.

If collecting a solitary point in a group containing Russia, Algeria and Belgium was tough, the challenge looks even more daunting this time with World Cup champion Germany, Mexico and Sweden in Group F.

The road to Russia offered few signs of progress.

In the third round of Asian qualifying, South Korea picked up only two points from five away games to leave a place at a ninth successive World Cup looking uncertain.

Coach Uli Stielike was fired and Shin Tae-yong was drafted in as a replacement to get the team over the line with two tense goalless draws.

As the players celebrated in Uzbekistan, there was criticism at home that the party was undeserved given the unconvincing performances.

To add to the concerns for Shin, his team has also been thinned by injuries to important players like wingers Yeom Ki-hoon and Lee Keun-ho, and fullback Kim Jin-su.

All three missed the trip to Russia, along with several others.

That puts pressure on young and unproven players like midfielder Lee Seung-woo.

The most important players on the team are playmaker Ki Sung-yueng and Tottenham striker Son Heung-min.

Lee Jae-sung scored South Korea’s only goal in a 3-1 loss to Bosnia-Herzegovina at Jeonju on June 1st, a farewell to fans on home soil.

It was a worrying result.

The country has become accustomed to World Cup qualification since the 1982 failure and there is a desire to see more appearances in the knockout stage.

Only twice have the ‘Taeguk Warrior’s advanced from their group, in 2002 when they made the semi-finals on home soil and in 2010 when they reached the round of 16.

This will be South Korea’s ninth straight World Cup.

Shin Tae-yong took the job in July 2017 and did just enough to qualify.

Shin likes to surprise tactically and he has experience in large tournaments: with the under-23 team at the 2016 Olympics, and at the 2017 Under-20 World Cup.

In both events, South Korea advanced through the group stage before being eliminated in the first game of the knockout round.

Shin may back off on his attacking game and focus on defence in Russia.

South Korea opens in Nizhny Novgorod against Sweden on Monday (18th June), followed by Mexico on June 23rd.

South Korea will rely on getting points from those games before closing out Group F against Germany on June 27th.

None of South Korea’s group games are in St. Petersburg, where the team is based.

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