FOZ DO IGUACU, Brazil (Yonhap) ― After playing Russia to a 1-1 draw to open Group H action at the ongoing FIFA World Cup, South Korea returned to its Brazilian base camp of Foz do Iguacu on Wednesday.
South Korea, coached by Hong Myung-bo, will face Algeria in Porto Alegre, about 600 kilometers east of the base camp, on Sunday. The group finale will be against Belgium in Sao Paulo, some 850 kilometers northeast of Foz do Iguacu.
Before the South Korea-Russia clash, Belgium defeated Algeria, 2-1, to assume the early lead in the group.
In Wednesday’s session, those who took the field against Russia stretched for about 20 minutes and did some light jogging at Pedro Basso Stadium.
|Korea head coach Hong Myung-bo (top left) runs a practice session on Wednesday. ( Yonhap)|
Those who stayed on the bench had passing drills and played two-on-two matches in the penalty area. The practice was held in chilly conditions with the temperature around 18 degrees Celsius, and a few players donned long-sleeve shirts.
The cool conditions might well have prepared the South Koreans for the match in Porto Alegre, where the average high around this time of the year hovers around 15 degrees Celsius.
South Korea had a disappointing buildup to the World Cup, losing two consecutive friendly matches without scoring a goal. Yet after a spirited draw Tuesday, South Korea is still alive in the tournament.
Algeria scored first against Belgium before conceding two second-half goals. A loss to South Korea would eliminate Algeria.
South Korean players said the match against Russia was a major boost to their confidence and that they felt Algeria is beatable.
After Wednesday’s practice, team captain Koo Ja-cheol said the Algerian match was essentially a “must-win” situation for South Korea.
“We have to defeat them to get to the round of 16,” the midfielder said.
“We’ll concentrate on doing whatever it takes to win.”
Goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong, playing in his second consecutive World Cup, said South Korea should be wary of Algerian players’ deft footwork, sharp shooting and accurate passing.
South Korea held an edge over Russia in ball possession and passing accuracy but it didn’t translate into more shots on goal.
The team’s defense also left room for improvement, and the backs will have their work cut out against the speedy and skillful Algerians.
The South Koreans are scheduled to depart for Porto Alegre on Friday. Players enjoy taste of home
Playing three intense matches in three different cities in a span of 10 days at the FIFA World Cup can take its toll on even the fittest and best-conditioned of players.
At the ongoing finals in Brazil, teams have brought their own ingredients to make sure their players have good nutrition and also enjoy some taste of home.
For the South Korean team, which brought two experienced chefs to Brazil, something as simple as kimchi, the country’s signature side dish, can do the trick.
The World Cup grind is well underway for South Korea’s 23-man squad.
The team battled Russia to a 1-1 draw on Tuesday in Cuiaba, in the central-west part of Brazil, and the players were back in their base camp in Foz do Iguacu, about 1,110 kilometers south of Cuiaba, by Wednesday afternoon.
More flights await the team.
South Korea will face Algeria in Porto Alegre, about 600 kilometers east of the base camp, on Sunday. The group finale will be against Belgium in Sao Paulo, some 850 kilometers northeast of Foz do Iguacu.
South Korea has assembled its youngest-ever World Cup squad, with an average age of just over 26, but the players will still have to travel thousands of kilometers for matches, not to mention withstand rigorous practices in between.
So just what do the players eat after each game so that they can bounce back for the next contest?
According to national team officials, kimchi jjigae was served for lunch Wednesday after the players returned to the base camp.
Kimchi jjigae, prepared with chopped kimchi plus tofu, pork or tuna and other vegetables, is as close to a soul food as any Korean dish.
It was a favorite among the players during their camp in Miami earlier this month, and chef Kim Hyung-chae, who has cooked for the national team for eight years, went back to the old reliable.
Kimchi jjigae can help more on the emotional side, team officials said, with its spicy and sour touches bringing a taste of home. For nutrition, the players enjoyed a feast of grilled beef for dinner, team officials added.