South Korea's two FIFA World Cup veterans and their tasty game fuelling the appetite for an upset

With the South Korea national team for a fourth consecutive FIFA World Cup now, chefs Kim Hyeong-chae and Shin Dong-il have the important task of keeping the likes of Son Heung-min, Hwang Hee-chan and Kim Min-jae nourished and satisfied at mealtime. Korea Football Association

DOHA, Qatar -- Here's a trivia question: who from the current South Korea contingent at the 2022 FIFA World Cup are making their fourth consecutive appearance at the tournament?

If you're immediately thinking which of the players it could be -- be it Kim Tae-hwan (the oldest member of the current squad at 33) or Son Heung-min (not impossible but unlikely given he was only 17 during the 2010 World Cup) -- then unfortunately you're barking up the wrong tree.

Instead, meet Kim Hyeong-chae and Shin Dong-il.

Unfamiliar with them? Don't fret. Most probably would not have heard of them, but you can bet that they are among the most well-liked people within the South Korean team.

And that is because they are the chefs making sure the likes of Son, Hwang Hee-chan and Kim Min-jae not only have their stomachs filled but their taste buds satisfied.

After all, when based abroad for a prolonged period of time, dealing with the pressure of a major work assignment, being able to have a taste of home is often so much more than just a familiar flavour.

It also evokes a certain comfort that can make the long days and hard times slightly more bearable, with the accompanying memory of such a meal being shared by family and friends also providing a reminder of the motivation to keep soldiering on.

While time seems to have breezed on by with the matches coming thick and fast at the World Cup in Qatar, a month is a long time to be away in a foreign land -- which is the duration it will take for any team that wants to go all the way and be champions.

And that is precisely why it is a huge positive for the footballers of today that almost every top-level team now has a culinary department that travels with them on such overseas assignments.

Of course, in the era of sport science and nutrition, being able to control what players are receiving from their intake is a key factor behind having meals prepared in-house. Gone are the days where a post-match feed involved heading to the nearest takeout joint for a hearty but greasy plate of food.

But the value of having chefs familiar with the dishes that can lift the spirits of the players cannot be underestimated.

Chefs Kim and Shin are the ones with this exact job for the Taegeuk Warriors and they have certainly been playing their part in fuelling the team's remarkable run to the Round of 16, where they will meet Brazil at Stadium 974 on Monday night.

The duo are no novices to the job either having been doing this together since the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Given the popularity that Korean food has in most parts of the world, it may perhaps not be surprising that kimchi (a traditional side dish of salted and fermented vegetables) and bulgogi (marinated and barbequed sliced beef) are hits with the players, but others such as dakgalbi (spicy stir-fried chicken), chicken soup and even curry are also among the most well-liked items on the menu.

The secret, which chefs Kim and Shin have clearly mastered, is to retain all the flavour of such well-loved, hearty dishes while ensuring they are still nutritionally acceptable for top-level athletes to be competing in the middle of football's biggest competition.

Of course, the duo certainly do have plenty of practice. Their three previous World Cup experiences notwithstanding, their usual jobs with the Korea Football Association -- when they are not at a tournament -- is also catering to footballers at the National Football Center.

Through the culinary skills of their two chefs, the Taegeuk Warriors have already been nourished enough to produce a World Cup campaign that has already tantalised the senses and left even the neutral craving for more -- especially after the thrilling come-from-behind 2-1 win over Portugal on Friday that secured their knockout round berth.

On the football front, the next item on South Korea's menu is a South American favourite: record five-time World Cup champions Brazil.

While the odds will be stacked against them, South Korea will be hoping the post-game meal they have later that evening will not be their last supper in Qatar.

Thanks to their World Cup veterans -- chefs Kim and Shin -- they certainly will not be lacking in nourishment. Both for their bodies and their spirits.