Before finally securing their eighth consecutive FIFA World Cup™ qualification, Korea Republic had twice seen their campaign in significant peril. Unlike Japan, who counted on the same starting XI and Australia, who used their core of experienced players throughout qualification, a proven and reliable starting line-up was elusive for Korea Republic throughout the qualifying competition.
With the squad changing constantly, an unprepared Taeguk Warrior side were stunned 2-1 by Lebanon in the third round’s penultimate match, which left their hopes hanging by a thread. The defeat cost Cho Kwangrae his job but under new boss Choi Kanghee, Korea Republic dispatched Kuwait 2-0 to progress at the West Asian’s expense.
The next round continued nearly in the same vein, with Choi’s side floundering with draws against Uzbekistan and Lebanon and a defeat to Iran. A 1-0 home win against Uzbekistan in the penultimate game saw their fortunes revived, but after losing the closing game to Iran by the identical scoreline, they had to wait until Uzbekistan’s 5-1 defeat of Qatar to confirm their direct qualification by edging the central Asians on goal difference.