South Korea need a win against Belgium on Thursday and help from elsewhere to have any hope of making the FIFA World Cup knockout stage.
With the opening two games having yielded just one point, the Koreans' eight successive appearance at the global showpiece has been somewhat of a disappointment so far.
Hong Myung-Bo's side, who opened with a 1-1 draw against Russia before Sunday's 4-2 loss against Algeria, now need a final-game turnaround to qualify from Group H.
Victory in Sao Paulo is the minimum requirement but even that could prove fruitless, depending on the result between Russia and Algeria - both of whom can still reach the last 16.
But history is stacked in Belgium's favour, with the Europeans having never lost to South Korea in the three previous meetings between the two.
Marc Wilmots' side have not been at their fluent best so far in the tournament either, but late goals in both of their opening games have earned a maximum return of six points to secure a second-round berth.
So while Belgium need only a draw to guarantee top spot, the situation is far more taxing for their opponents.
With only one point and the worst goal difference of the four teams, Hong's side need to win by a good margin and then hope, ideally, that Algeria and Russia draw.
A win for Fabio Capello's side would also give the Koreans a glimmer of hope, but they would need to rack up the goals against Belgium.
Striker Kim Shin-wook remains optimistic of their chances despite admitting morale in the South Korea camp is low after the chastening reverse to Algeria.
"Honestly, our team's mood is not good," he told The Korea Herald. "But no one has given up on our dream of making the round of 16.
"It is true that Belgium is a strong team, but if we display our last fighting spirit, the unexpected is possible."
Wilmots must decide whether to rest players knowing that qualification is assured. Divock Origi came off the bench to score the match-winning goal against Russia and the 19-year-old could be handed a start in place Romelu Lukaku, while Adnan Januzaj may also feature.