The 2014 FIFA World Cup kicked off on June 12 in Brazil. The first match was a 3-1 victory for Brazil again Croatia, hailing an auspicious start for the South American host country.
South Korea’s national squad has arrived as well, and this will be its 10th appearance in this wildly popular international competition.
The Reds’ best result was at the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup, where they finished fourth overall. This time around, though, the team has a FIFA ranking of 55 and it pulled a tough draw. Group H has top-ranked Belgium, as well as Russia and Algeria.
Korea’s first match is against Russia. On Jeju the kick-off time will be 7 a.m. on June 18. This is followed by Algeria on June 23 at 4 a.m. and Belgium on June 27 at 5 a.m.
The team has two Jeju-born players in the final 23-man roster, as well as two more athletes who have ties to the island.
Twenty-three year old Ji Dong-won (지동원) was born on Chuja Island. He is a midfielder with 27 international appearances, or “caps,” and 8 international goals. Ji even scored the opening goal for Korea in men’s soccer at the London 2012 Summer Olympics. He is a member of Borussia Dortmund in the German Bundesliga.
Hong Jeong-ho (홍정호) is a 24-year-old defender with 24 international caps and 1 international goal. Hong graduated from Jungang High School in Jeju City. He was a Jeju United player during the team’s second-place finish in the 2010 K-League final. He currently plays for FC Augsburg.
And though forward Koo Ja-cheol (구자철) and goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong (정성룡) may not hail from Jeju, they have lived and worked here.
Koo joined Jeju United in 2007 at age 18 and along with Hong helped launch Jeju United to a second place finish in the 2010 K-League finals.
Jung, who has 60 international caps, attended middle and high school in Seogwipo.
A lot is riding on a good showing by the team. As Head Coach Hong Myung-bo (홍명보) said at a press conference in May, in light of the Sewol Tragedy, he said, “It’s an opportunity for our players to give our people strength in these difficult times.”
This a reworked article, written by the author, which first appeared on KCTV English News. — Ed.