Team name: South Korea
Nickname: The Red Devils
Manager: Song Kyung-sub
Last game: South Korea 1-2 Turkey (January 2020)
South Korea boasts great success in the AFC U16 Championship. They won it twice - in Qatar in 1986 and in the UAE in 2002.
They were on the right side of penalty shootouts in both finals, with Yemen and Qatar at the receiving end in 1986 and 2002, respectively.
In their last five appearances in the competition, Korea managed two silver medals and one semi-final finish. After topping the group that also contained India in 2008, Korea eased past hosts Uzbekistan and edged Japan in the quarterfinals and semi-final respectively before succumbing to Iran in the final.
Interestingly, they could not qualify for the 2010 edition and sat out of the final round for only the fourth time in history.
Korea finished runners-up yet again in 2014. A comfortable group stage built up to two simple knockout rounds with the Red Devils comfortably getting past Japan and Syria. But DPR Korea edged them in the finals to claim their second title.
The 2016 AFC U16 Championship that was held in India remains the only edition since 1996 in which Korea qualified for the final round but failed to make it out of the group. However, they made a statement upon return in the 2018 edition with a top-four finish.
The Red Devils defeated two of their current group stage opponents in that edition. They topped a group that also contained Australia and defeated India in the quarterfinals before losing to Tajikistan on penalties in the semi-final.
Having remained in the top echelons of Asian football consistently, South Korea have featured in the FIFA U17 World Cup quite often.
One of their best runs in the competition arrived last year when they qualified for the quarterfinals in the tournament that was held in Brazil. A 1-0 defeat against eventual silver medallists Mexico ended their campaign.
LESSONS FROM THE PAST
Korea and India have faced each other thrice in the competition, with the former emerging victorious on all three occasions. The Red Devils eased to a 3-1 win in the quarterfinals in 2002 and further went on to claim the title.
The score-line was not kind to the Blue Colts when the two teams squared off in the Group Stage of the 2008 edition. Korea registered a 5-2 win as they topped the group with an incredible goal difference of +12.
More recently, Korea halted India’s promising run in 2018 with a hard-earned 1-0 win in the quarterfinals.
WIN % (INDIA)
v SOUTH KOREA
The Red Devils breezed past Thailand, Chinese Taipei and Myanmar in the qualifiers for the 2020 AFC U16 Championship that was held in Myanmar last year. They scored 13 and conceded zero goals in three games to storm into the final round.
Earlier this year, Korea finished runners-up in the 2020 Mercedes Benz Aegean Cup that was hosted by Turkey in January.
They finished on top of the group that also contained Albania, Ukraine and Macedonia. However, a 1-2 defeat to hosts Turkey in the final meant that the Red Devils had to settle for a silver medal.
The footballing world coming to a standstill for three months due to the Coronavirus pandemic. While most countries are yet to resume training, the Korean U16 team started working together from June 22nd and the group of 34 players were in a training in the camp until June 26th.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Manager Song Kyung-sub trained coaches as an instructor at the Korean Football Association (KFA) for 16 years. He started managing professionally in 2017, picking up the reins at K League side Gangwon FC.
The 49-year-old emphasises in build-up play, with his defenders starting the move in a patient manner. The team creates chances by passing in the final third and capitalising on the right moment to sting.
An incredible attack paired with a solid defence that did not concede a single goal in the qualifiers makes Korea a force to be reckoned with in the AFC U16 Championship.
PLAYER TO WATCH
The captain of the side Lee Gyu-baek is an exciting defender and a solid leader of the backline who has played a key role in amassing a massive number of clean-sheets in recent times (five in six games).
In attack, the Red Devils have Jang Ha-min, who has scored 14 goals in his last 13 games for the U16 side.