The 2023 U-17 World Cup in Indonesia is one month away from kicking off. It was originally scheduled to take place in 2021, but was postponed by two years due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The host country, Peru, was also changed after a series of natural disasters stripped it of the honor.
The U-17 World Cup, a national competition organized by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), began in 1985 and has been held every odd-numbered year since. Initially, 16 nations qualified for the tournament before expanding to 24 in 2007. Nigeria, the inaugural champion, remains the most decorated nation (five times).
South Korea has qualified seven times (1987, 2003, 2007, 2009, 2015, 2019, 2023). Their best finish is the quarterfinals (1987, 2009, 2019). There have been players who have represented the country at each tournament. There are quite a few players who are still recognized by name.
For starters, the 1987 tournament in Canada featured Shin Tae-yong “The Fox of the Ground”, Seo Won-jeong “The Fly”, Noh Jung-yoon “Notre Dame”, and Kim Byung-soo “The Unlucky Genius”. Shin Tae-yong made a name for himself by scoring two goals in three group games.
South Korea drew 1-1 with Ivory Coast and lost 0-1 to Ecuador in the group stage, but beat the United States 4-2 to reach the quarterfinals. However, they ended the tournament with a 0-2 loss to Italy. After that, they never made it past the Asian qualifiers.
However, in 2003 in Finland, the team qualified for the tournament for the first time in 16 years. The team featured Lee Yong-rae, who is still playing for Daegu FC today, and Shin Young-rok, also known as “Young-rok-ba,” who was expected to be the next generation of strikers. Yang Dong-hyun, Jung In-hwan, and Han Dong-won were other longtime K League players.
South Korea lost 1-6 to the United States in their first game of the group stage, and then came from behind to lose 2-3 against Spain, with David Silva scoring a hat trick. A 3-2 victory over Sierra Leone in their final game saved them from elimination.
Four years later, in 2007, Kim Seung-kyu, Oh Jae-seok, Yoon Beetgaram, Yoon Seok-young, and Hankook Young played in the tournament as hosts. They went on to play for the age-group and adult national soccer teams. Today, they are still active and play senior roles in their respective teams.
South Korea lost 0-1 to Peru in the group stage, followed by a 0-2 loss to Costa Rica.스포츠토토 A 2-1 win over Togo in the third match, courtesy of a late goal from Yoon Beom-Garam, gave them one last hope, but they fell short of advancing to the round of 16 after losing on goal difference in the race for third place in the group.
The 2009 tournament in Nigeria, the first of two consecutive tournaments, was the first time soccer fans were introduced to Son Heung-min, who is now an icon of South Korean soccer and has gone on to represent the country around the world. The team was led by Kim Jin-su, Yoon Il-rok, Lee Jong-ho, and other 1992-born players.
South Korea got off to a good start in the group stage, beating Uruguay 3-1. They lost 1-2 to Italy, but beat Algeria 2-0 in their final game to reach the round of 16. In the round of 16, they went to a penalty shootout with Mexico. However, they met Nigeria in the quarterfinals and lost 1-3. At the time, Son scored three goals in five games.
After failing to qualify for back-to-back tournaments in Mexico in 2011 and the UAE in 2013, the 2015 tournament in Chile featured Kim Jin-ya, Oh Se-hoon, Yoon Jong-kyu, Lee Sang-min, Lee Seung-woo, and Lee Seung-mo. In particular, the selection of Lee Seung-woo, who was playing for Barcelona’s Juvenil A at the time, attracted a lot of attention.
The South Koreans stunned Brazil with a 1-0 win in the first round of the group stage, then beat Guinea 1-0 in the second round with a dramatic goal by Oh Se-hoon, and caused a stir when they played England to a goalless draw. However, they lost 0-2 to Belgium in the round of 16.
The 2019 tournament in Brazil was the stage for the Korea-Japan World Cup generation, led by those born in 2002. Kim Yong-hak, Uhm Ji Sung, Lee Tae-seok, Lee Han-beom, Jung Sang-bin, and Hong Yun-sang were selected. They are considered to be the future of Korean soccer.
In the group stage, South Korea beat Haiti 2-1 in their first game, but lost to France 1-3. However, a 2-1 victory over Chile in the final game propelled them into the round of 16. In the round of 16, they defeated Angola 1-0, but ended the tournament with a 0-1 loss to Mexico in the quarterfinals.