Host South Korea will finalize their final squad for the FIFA U-20 World Cup after playing two friendly matches with local soccer clubs next week.
The country is in the final stretch of their preparations for the U-20 World Cup that will run from May 20 to June 11. The men’s national U-20 team, led by head coach Shin Tae-yong, is in Group A with Argentina, England and Guinea at the 24-team tournament.
South Korean national U-20 football team head coach Shin Tae-yong speaks to reporters after his team's practice match against Suwon FC at Suwon Sports Complex in Suwon, south of Seoul, on April 19, 2017. (Yonhap)
Shin named 25 players for April training, and they have been playing friendly matches to fine-tune their performances for the U-20 World Cup. Among the 25 players, only FC Barcelona Juvenil A forward Lee Seung-woo has not been training with the national team due to his club duties.
Shin is expected to announce the 21-man final entry for the U-20 World Cup on April 29 or 30 after playing two friendlies at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province. The young Taeguk Warriors will meet Jeonju University on Monday and take on professional football club Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors three days later.
Jeonju is one of the six host cities for the U-20 World Cup, and South Korea will play their first two matches there against Argentina and Guinea.
In two previous friendlies, the U-20 side played to a scoreless draw with Myongji University and picked up a 3-2 loss to second division club Suwon FC.
Shin previously said he especially has big expectations against Jeonbuk, the defending champions of the Asian Football Confederation Champions League.
“Professional clubs display a higher level of performance than we do in terms of execution of tactics, and I think the world’s top class (U-20) teams are at a similar level too,” Shin said Wednesday after the match against Suwon FC. “Through these practice matches, we want to show our style of play and improve physical abilities.”
The 46-year-old coach said he will name the final 21 players from the 25-man preliminary roster, meaning at least four players will not make the cut after the two friendlies. Shin has said versatile players who can perform in multiple positions may get the nod.
“I want to give equal opportunities to the players until the final squad announcement,” he said. “No one is guaranteed a roster spot. You never know what’s going to happen until the announcement.”
South Korean national U-20 football team players train at the National Football Center in Paju, north of Seoul, on April 10, 2017. (Yonhap)
Local pundits, however, believe FC Barcelona prospects Lee and Paik Seung-ho, who were impressive during a four-nation invitational tournament that featured Zambia, Ecuador and Honduras last month, are considered safe, while team captain Han Chan-hee, forward Cho Young-wook and goalkeeper Song Bum-keun are also likely to earn a spot on the 21-man final roster.
Center back Jeong Tae-wook, who was knocked unconscious after a collision with a Zambian player last month, is still on the bubble as he has yet to play in any matches since he injured his neck.
After confirming the roster for the U-20 World Cup, South Korea will start training at the National Football Center in Paju, north of Seoul, on May 1. Shin’s side will then play friendly matches against Uruguay on May 11 and Senegal three days later before entering the U-20 World Cup.
Both Uruguay and Senegal are also participants in the U-20 World Cup. Uruguay is in Group D with Japan, Italy and South Africa. Senegal is grouped with the United States, Ecuador and Saudi Arabia in Group F. (Yonhap)