South Korea will try to extend their unbeaten streak under new head coach Paulo Bento when they take on Australia in a friendly football match on the road.
South Korea, 53rd in the latest FIFA rankings, will face 42nd-ranked Australia on Saturday. The match will kick off at 6:50 p.m. local time, or 5:50 p.m. Korea time, at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia.
South Korea are on a four-game unbeaten streak since Bento took over the team in August. The men's national football team beat Costa Rica 2-0, and collected a scoreless draw with Chile in September. Last month, South Korea edged Uruguay 2-1 and played to a 2-2 draw against Panama.
But all four matches were played at home. The friendly against Australia will be the first away match for Bento's South Korean team.
After squaring off with Australia, South Korea will go head-to-head against Uzbekistan in Brisbane on Tuesday.
The two upcoming contests are tune-ups for the 2019 Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates, which kicks off in January.
Against Australia, the Taeguk Warriors have amassed seven wins, 10 draws and nine losses against. The two sides' most recent duels were at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia. In the group stage, South Korea edged Australia 1-0, but they fell 2-1 to the tournament hosts in the final match in extra time.
For the upcoming meeting, South Korea brought 24 players, but they will be missing some core players on both sides of the ball.
Noticeable absentees are Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min, Newcastle United midfielder Ki Sung-yueng and FC Tokyo defender Jang Hyun-soo. The three players started for South Korea in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup final against Australia.
Son was left off the roster following an agreement between his English Premier League club and the Korea Football Association in a trade off for the player's Asian Games appearance this summer. Ki was not selected after Bento decided to give the veteran a rest and focus on his club duty, while Jang was excluded after he was slapped with a lifetime ban from the national team by the KFA for doctoring his community service records.
Other regular members omitted from Bento's squad are Ki's midfield partner Jung Woo-young of Al Sadd, energetic attacker Hwang Hee-chan of Hamburger SV and skillful midfielder Lee Jae-sung of Holstein Kiel.
With their core members missing, Bento will have to come up with an experimental lineup with new faces and players who didn't get much playing time in previous matches. For the friendlies in Australia, Bento selected three players who have never represented South Korea on the senior level.
Complete overhaul is expected in center midfield as both Ki and Jung are out. It will be interesting to see how Bento can cope with the absence of Ki, who has been the main orchestrator in the team's buildup process from the defensive third.
Bento is also tasked to fill the void left by Jang in center defense. Jang was the leader of South Korea's defense with his ability to control the defensive line.
Kim Young-gwon, who also faced Australia in the 2015 Asian Cup final, will likely serve as the new skipper on defense. Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors young gun Kim Min-jae, who started ahead of Jang in the friendly against Panama, could get the nod, while Kashima Antlers center back Jung Seung-hyun, who recently led the Japanese club to the AFC Champions League title, is also rising as a promising candidate. Tianjin Quanjian's Kwon Kyung-won and Gyeongnam FC's Park Ji-soo are looking for their first appearances under Bento.
Bento will hope two veteran midfielders can facilitate South Korea's attack with their experience and skills. Koo Ja-cheol of FC Augsburg and Lee Chung-yong of VfL Bochum were selected for the first time since Bento took the helm.
The two attacking midfielders will focus on helping goal poachers up front, such as Hwang Ui-jo of Gamba Osaka, or Suk Hyun-jun of Stade de Reims.
Australia, managed by Graham Arnold, announced their 23-man squad for the clash against South Korea. The Socceroos are tasked with finding solutions to the retirement of veterans like Mile Jedinak and Tim Cahill through their friendly matches before heading to the 2019 Asian Cup.
The squad features some familiar faces to South Korean football fans. Seven players who competed against South Korea in the 2015 Asian Cup final are on Arnold's latest squad. Matthew Jurman, who previously played with Suwon Samsung Bluewings in the K League 1, is also representing Australia.
Arnold's side will likely receive big support from home fans because the friendly against South Korea is their first match on home turf this year.
At Suncorp Stadium, the Socceroos have lost only once in their past eight matches, but that one loss came from the match against South Korea at the 2015 Asian Cup group stage. (Yonhap)