SEOUL: South Korea will need their talisman Son Heung-min to bring his sparkling English Premier League form to the World Cup if they are to survive a devilishly tricky group.
The Koreans crashed out in the first round of the 2014 tournament in Brazil and have their work cut out to avoid the same fate in Russia, where they have been drawn alongside holders Germany, Sweden and Mexico.
But they boast genuine star quality in snake-hipped Tottenham attacker Son, who lit up the Premier League this season, helping Spurs finish third and secure a UEFA Champions League place.
One of the best players to emerge from Asia, the 25-year-old scored 18 goals in all competitions in a brilliant campaign with the London club and once again carries the hopes of a nation heading into the World Cup.
South Korea made history with their astonishing run to the 2002 World Cup semi-finals but the current crop of players have struggled to hit those heights -- or come anywhere close.
Son almost single-handedly led the Taeguk Warriors to the Asian Cup final in 2015, where they lost to hosts Australia, but his eye-catching performances earned him a move from German club Bayer Leverkusen to Spurs, where the mercurial forward has been a big hit with supporters.
Son will be desperate to deliver for his legions of fans in South Korea and has the weapons to pose a serious threat to Sweden in their World Cup opener on June 18.
The Koreans realistically also need to take points from Mexico with world champions Germany awaiting them in their final Group F fixture in Kazan.
Pelted with toffees by fans in a traditional Korean insult on their return from Brazil four years ago, they will need star man Son to be on song in Russia to avoid a repeat.