Going into the 2010 East Asian Football Championships in Japan, the South Korean side had high hopes of hoisting the trophy at its completion.
However, despite convincing wins against Hong Kong and Japan, a loss to China derailed their plans, resulting in a disappointing second-place finish.
Of course, the big news of the tournament was China. Expected to finish no better than third, the Chinese managed a draw with host Japan and beat South Korea by a score of 3-0.
China started the scoring against Korea in the fifth minute, with left winger Yu Hai finding the back of the net.
Throughout the game, it was obvious that the Korean side missed their European players, especially captain Park Ji-Sung.
With the current season of competition heating up in Europe, it was impossible for Park and the others who play their club football in Europe to make the trip to Japan for the tournament.
China on the other hand, had a full complement of players in town for the tournament and took advantage of the gaps in the Koreans' defense to score two more goals in the 27th and 60th minutes.
Not that the Chinese side was expected to roll over and play dead, but their performance against South Korea and throughout the entire tournament was certainly above expectations.
After losing to China, the South Koreans had to pick themselves up to have any chance against rival Japan.
Things didn't start out well for the South Korean side, going down 1-0 in the 23rd minute, and it looked as if the tournament might have gone from bad to worse.
However, the Koreans' hard work was finally rewarded in the 32nd minute when forward Lee Dong-Gook found the back of the net for his 24th International goal.
From that point on, the South Korean side continued to pad their lead, scoring two more goals before time expired.
Looking forward to the World Cup, the East Asian Championship provide more mixed signals than a middle school dance.
On the one hand, Korea was dominant against fellow World Cup competitor Japan, though both teams were without some of their top players.
On the other hand, they lost in basically humiliating fashion to the second-tier Chinese team.
In my opinion, this tournament tells me two things.
First, the Korean side needs their European stars, especially their captain, Park Ji-Sung. Without their top players, they, as most teams in most sports, struggle mightily.
I also get the feeling that the Koreans play much better when the competition is at its toughest, struggling against competition such as China and Zambia, yet beating tougher opponents such as Japan and Paraguay.
Assuming both points are correct, this tournament likely means very little to the South Koreans chances in the 2010 World Cup.