Korea gears up for Tunisia clash

By Korea Herald
  • Published : May 26, 2014 - 20:07
  • Updated : May 26, 2014 - 20:12
South Korea will host Tunisia in the final tune-up match at home ahead of the FIFA World Cup on Wednesday at Seoul World Cup Stadium, giving fans their first glimpse of the team that will represent the country in Brazil next month.

The kickoff for head coach Hong Myung-bo’s 23-man squad will be at 8 p.m. It will be the first of two matches South Korea will play before traveling to Brazil for the big tournament.

South Korea will fly to Miami on Friday and will take on Ghana on June 9 before hopping over to Brazil on June 12. South Korea will take on Russia, Algeria and Belgium in Group H.

Hong said the objective for Wednesday’s match is quite clear. “We’d like to win one for our fans at home, since it is our last match here before the World Cup,” the coach told reporters at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, the practice facility for his squad.

“This match will be an extension of our preparation for the World Cup. Although our players are not yet 100 percent, we hope to deliver a victory to our fans before traveling to Miami.”

Hong opened the training camp on May 12 and has gradually increased the intensity of his drills.

Players had some spirited intrasquad matches and Hong also put them through tactical practices.

The coach said he will keep an eye on how well players can execute their tactics in game situations.

South Korea began its World Cup preparations with some players on the mend. Striker Park Chu-young had foot inflammation and midfielder Ki Sung-yueng suffered from knee tendinitis. They have mostly healed and have taken part in drills, but Hong said they could never be too careful.

“Our players must guard against unexpected injuries,” Hong said. “Fortunately, injured players have recovered quickly and they’re well conditioned.”

Ready for challenge

South Korean defensive back Kim Young-gwon will be facing a number of skilled attackers at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil this summer, and he has one particular player on his mind.

On Monday, Kim said he’s looking forward to squaring off against Eden Hazard of Belgium.

“He’s a great player starring on a great club,” Kim said of the Chelsea midfielder. “I want to try to stop him (in Brazil).”

Kim, of the reigning Asian champion Guangzhou Evergrande, is a likely starting centerback for South Korea, which will face Belgium, Algeria and Russia in Group H. Kim and the rest of the defense corps will have their work cut out against Hazard.

The 23-year-old dynamo netted 14 goals for Chelsea this past season, and is known for his explosive speed and creativity. Hazard is a core member of Belgium’s “new golden generation” and should be the sparkplug for the team’s offense.

“A lot of players that we’ll face have great skills, and we’re working on putting pressure on ball carriers,” Kim said. “Even during down time, I am trying to picture myself playing against those players.”

Kim himself is no slouch on defense and he’s known to be a favorite of his Guangzhou head coach, Marcello Lippi, who took Italy to the World Cup in 2006.

Kim, 24, bristled at the notion that the lack of international experience for him and his defensive teammates will hurt South Korea.

“We have many players competing in top leagues overseas and I don’t think (lacking World Cup experience) will be an issue,” he said. “Our youthful energy is a strength of our unit.”

The first opponent will be Russia and Kim said it will be important not to give up any goals in the opening match. (Yonhap)