If Korea beats Brazil in the semifinals of the football match at the London Games early Wednesday morning (Korean time) at Old Trafford in Manchester, it will be the first time the country has advanced to the final of a major football tournament.
The national side raced to the semifinals of the 2002 World Cup, which Korea co-hosted with Japan, but has never made it to the title match of an international event of this stature.
Yet hope is already building that the giant slayers from the Land of the Morning Calm may have an upset in store for the South Americans known for their silky skills on the pitch after Korea trounced host Great Britain on Saturday by winning their penalty shootout to progress to the final four.
"It's true the players are exhausted after having played into extra time against Great Britain in the quarterfinals, but the team's morale is higher than ever," manager Hong Myung-bo said in a press conference at Old Trafford on Monday. "We'll find a way to put a check on Brazil."
Some critics say the biggest threat to the team is the risk of fatigue, and question whether the players will have the stamina to see them through after exerting themselves in their previous four matches. The squad had a training session in Cardiff on Sunday morning, moved to Manchester that afternoon and practiced tactics throughout the following day.
Brazil also has a star-studded cast, and its attacking talent is at such a premium that even AC Milan striker Alexandre Pato has found himself relegated to the role of bench warmer in the competition. The attacking trio of Leandro Damiao, Neymar and Hulk will hunt for goals, while midfielder Oscar, whose transfer to Chelsea was recently confirmed, will provide support.
Brazil's biggest weakness lies in its defense, which allowed five goals in four matches, however it still has one of the world's most formidable center backs in Thiago Silva, while left back Marcelo Vieira of Real Madrid joined the squad as one of its three over-23 players.
Korea, which defended expertly against Great Britain, plans to focus on keeping a solid back line and pressing Brazil with quick counterattacks and rapid-fire passing. The team's biggest advantage, according to Brazilian media, is its strong motivation to win.
Brazilian reporters have cited Korea's mandatory military duty as another reason why the team is a force to be reckoned with, pointing out that the Olympic football players will be exempted from their national duty if they bring a medal home.
Brazil also has a strong incentive to win as the country has collected every title in world football, including five World Cup trophies, but has failed to win Olympic gold. Its best performances came at the 1984 and 1988 Games, when it netted two silver.
After the quarterfinal on Saturday, Korean players were thrilled to be facing Brazil at Old Trafford, home of Manchester United. "This is special because Old Trafford is where [Park] Ji-sung used to play," said Oh Jae-suk. Captain Koo Ja-cheol added, "We want to write a new chapter in the history of Korean football at Old Trafford."
Park, who recently transferred to another Premier League outfit, Queens Park Rangers in London, played for United for seven seasons from 2005 to 2012.
Old Trafford opened in 1910 but has been renovated and expanded several times and can now house 75,000 spectators, making it the second-largest stadium in England after Wembley, which has a capacity of 90,000. It is dubbed the "Theatre of Dreams," and Korean fans will certainly be hoping it can make another one come true this week.