The South Korean men’s national soccer team will gather on the weekend in preparation for an upcoming pre-World Cup friendly match against Greece.
The 22-man squad, coached by Hong Myung-bo, will report to the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, north of Seoul, on Saturday.
The team will then depart for Athens the following day. The match is scheduled for Wednesday.
Hong has called up players based in European leagues for this game. In three earlier matches held between late January and early February in the United States, Hong only chose players from South Korea, Japan and China, with European clubs, their seasons in full swing, under no obligation to release their international players.
South Korea beat Costa Rica 1-0 but lost to Mexico and the U.S. by a combined score of 6-0.
After Greece, South Korea will host Tunisia on May 28. Hong will then announce his final World Cup roster on May 29.
At the World Cup in Brazil, South Korea is paired with Belgium, Russia and Algeria in Group H. South Korea’s first match will be against Russia on June 17. At No. 61, South Korea is the lowest-ranked nation in Group H.
Hong has said the Greece match will essentially be the final test for players on the bubble.
The coach has insisted no one player will be guaranteed a spot on the World Cup roster, though some players may have an inside track on certain positions compared to others.
“I believe our players by now must have developed a good understanding of our tactics,” Hong said. “Since this will be their last test, I will experiment with different tactics.”
The coach added that the striker position and the three spots in the second line of attack will be more hotly contested than other positions.
Hong has tabbed Park Chu-young of Watford, a second-division English club, for the striker position.
The much-maligned veteran hasn’t played for South Korea for more than a year. He’d been riding the pine for Arsenal in the Premier League for most of the past three seasons before being loaned to Watford last month.
Though Park still hasn’t seen much action there as he deals with a minor knee injury, Hong decided to give his once prized pupil a chance. Park scored the eventual winner in South Korea’s 2-0 victory over Japan in the bronze medal contest at the 2012 London Olympics, with Hong as the head coach.
Kim Shin-wook of Ulsan Hyundai in the domestic K League Classic has been Hong’s go-to-guy for striker. Ji Dong-won of FC Augsburg in Germany can also play up front. He once toiled on the bench for Sunderland in England but has since turned his season around following a loan to the German club. (Yonhap)