SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea had a “rude awakening” at the last World Cup when they were surprised by the strength of their group opponents, but there will be no complacency this time around with Germany, Mexico and Sweden waiting for them, says striker Kim Shin-wook.
The Koreans were eliminated at the first hurdle in Brazil four years ago after drawing their opener against Russia before losing to both Algeria and Belgium.
“Last time in Brazil, we thought we were in an easy group but we ended up with a rude awakening,” Kim said on FIFA.com.
“They (Belgium and Algeria) were stronger than we had expected. But at the same time we had our chances to score, which we failed to convert.”
South Korea, who reached the semi-finals on home soil in 2002, face a tough task in Russia this month as they look to make it out of a heavyweight Group F.
They open their campaign against Sweden on June 18, face Mexico five days later before winding up the group phase against the world champions on June 27.
Kim, who was named in Shin Tae-yong’s final 23-man squad for Russia on Saturday, said the Koreans were under no illusions as to the quality of opposition they would face.
“It’s completely different this time, because we’re in a very difficult group — some say it’s the worst possible scenario,” the towering Jeonbuk forward added.
“But we’re well prepared under a new coach, and we’ll try to become a unit and play our best football there. If that is possible, we’ll be able to overcome the first hurdle.”
The Korean squad have travelled to their training camp in Austria, where they will stay until moving to their World Cup base in St Petersburg. They are scheduled to play Bolivia and Senegal in warm-up matches over the next week.
Writing by Peter Rutherford; Editing by John O'Brien