From No. 24 in 9 years to No. 1 in Asia, now the next target

South Korean soccer has climbed to 24th in the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) rankings. FIFA announced the October rankings on its official website on Oct. 27 (KST). South Korea earned 1540.35 ranking points this month, 7.34 points higher than last month’s 1533.01 points, when it was ranked 26th, and moved up two spots. This is the highest ranking for Korean soccer in 18 years, since 2005.

The top spot is held by Qatar World Cup winners Argentina (1861.29 points). Argentina hasn’t missed the top spot this year since winning the 2022 World Cup in Qatar late last year. They are followed by World Cup runners-up France (1853.11 points) and Brazil (1812.2 points).

Introduced in 1992, the FIFA rankings provide an easy-to-understand scoring system for each country’s national soccer team. As soccer grew in popularity, it became necessary to organize the sport.

Initially, the rankings were calculated simply by awarding three points for wins and one point for draws in official FIFA-organized matches, with no penalties for losses, so the more A-matches a team participated in, the better its ranking. However, this led to complaints that the rankings did not reflect the true quality of the participating nations.

Recognizing the problem, FIFA has revised the rankings several times over the years, starting in 1999. The weighting of continental teams, home and away, friendlies, and major tournaments began to be differentiated, goal differentials were introduced, and more recent matches were given more weight. The formula has become much more complex than in the past, with more of a mathematical formula, but its reputation for relative accuracy has steadily improved.

South Korea started in 41st place in 1993 and reached its highest ever ranking of 17th in 1998. After the first revision of the rankings in 1999, it dropped to the 40s, but in 2002 it climbed back to 20th place, thanks to the World Cup host nation effect and the myth of the Four Nations. In 2003 and 2004, it climbed as high as 19th, once each.

However, in 2006, when the second rankings were revised, South Korea’s ranking plummeted to the bottom 50. Since then, the Korean soccer team has been on a roller coaster ride, fluctuating between the top 20 and the top 60 for some time.

The mid-2010s are considered to be the biggest downturn for the Korean national team since the introduction of the FIFA rankings. A 25th-place finish in October 2012 was the last time South Korea cracked the top 20 in the 2010s. After that, the KFA failed to return to the top 20 for a whopping nine years and four months until January 2022 (33rd). In particular, in 2014, the country suffered its worst-ever ranking of 69th after several years of poor performances in the A-match, including Hong Myung-bok’s group stage exit at the World Cup in Brazil.

It wasn’t until 2018 that the tide turned. At the World Cup in Russia, Shin Tae-yong-ho’s final group stage victory over Germany (the Miracle in Kazan) set the stage for a rebound. Since then, Paulo Bento, who took over the reins, has managed to gradually raise the profile of Korean soccer with a record of 35 wins, 13 draws, and 9 losses in 57 A matches, a winning percentage of 61.4%, and a strong showing at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, including an away round of 16. It also helped that the ranking system, which had been unfavorable to Asian nations, was reformed in 2018, including the introduction of the ‘Elo Rating’ method.

At the time of Bentoho’s launch after the 2018 World Cup in Russia, South Korea’s FIFA ranking was 57th, but it rebounded to 29th in February 2022 during the final qualifiers for the World Cup in Qatar, regaining the top 20. By the end of Ventojo’s tenure, right after the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the team had climbed to 25th place for a successful finale.

After the appointment of Jürgen Klinsmann, the team faltered for a while, dropping slightly to 28th in the FIFA rankings. Klinsmann got off to a slow start with three draws and two losses in his first five games. However, after registering their first win against Saudi Arabia in Europe in September, the team turned things around with three consecutive wins and 11 goals conceded, including a 4-0 win over Tunisia and a 6-0 win over Vietnam in October’s A matches, which naturally led to a rebound in the rankings.

The next goal for the Korean soccer team is to break into the top 10 and become the No. 1 team in Asia. South Korea’s last top 10 ranking was 19th in 2004, when the country was still reeling from the Korea-Japan World Cup. In addition, Korea’s current ranking is third in Asia, behind Japan (18th, 1612.99 points) and Iran (21st, 1567.3 points).카지노사이트

The recent trend is very positive. In addition to Son Heung-min and Kim Min-jae, who have now established themselves as world-class stars, South Korean soccer has produced a number of high-level European players, including Lee Kang-in, Hwang Hee-chan, Lee Jae-sung, Cho Kyu-sung, and Jung Woo-young. In terms of individual name value and stature, this is already the highest level ever, surpassing the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup generation. In addition, the development of younger players at the national team level has been remarkable, with the team reaching the quarterfinals of the U-20 World Cup 2023 and winning three consecutive Asian Games in Hangzhou 2022 this year alone.

A top 10 FIFA ranking and Asia’s No. 1 ranking are not out of the question if Korea can reach its highest point in 64 years at the upcoming AFC Asian Cup in 2023. The FIFA rankings are not just symbolic, they are also a huge advantage in major tournaments such as World Cup group stage seeding.

But don’t let your guard down. Korea’s biggest rival, Japan, is in the midst of a heyday that could see it surpass Korea, thanks to its richer European roster and strong A-match record. There are still doubts about whether the Korean soccer team will be able to continue its upward trajectory, with leadership issues under Klinsmann and controversy surrounding the Korean Football Association. That’s why it’s important not to rest on our laurels, but to continue our efforts to improve and innovate.






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