Football gets its overseas itinerary

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Football gets its overseas itinerary

The Korea Football Association announced the national team’s schedule for the upcoming overseas training camps in Rustenburg, South Africa and Malaga, Spain in January. Included on the national team’s agenda are friendly matches against Zambia and South African pro clubs as well as Finland and Latvia.

“We have decided to play three friendly matches in South Africa and then relocate to Malaga, Spain to play three more matches for a total of six friendly matches,” announced the KFA yesterday.

Huh Jung-moo and his coaching staff are expected to make first-round cuts to the preliminary 35-man roster at the upcoming tryouts at the National Training Center in Paju, Gyeonggi. Korea’s head coach released the preliminary roster of K-League and J-League players earlier this month. The two days of tryouts, starting on Dec. 26, will include a physical and practice games.

After the first round of cuts, the national team will travel to Rustenburg and Malaga in January to prepare for the 2010 World Cup. On top of Huh’s priorities is getting his men in prime playing shape and prepared for the high altitude of South Africa. Korea has been grouped with Argentina, Nigeria and Greece.

Since the overseas-based players that make up the core of the team, such as Park Ji-sung, Park Chu-young, Cha Du-ri and Lee Young-pyo, have yet to conclude their seasons, they won’t be at the upcoming overseas training camps. With plans for up to two more international friendly matches on March 3 and in May, Huh will have a few more opportunities to evaluate those players’ conditions then.

The national team will depart for Rustenburg on Jan. 4 and will return to Korea on Jan. 25. The first match of the new year will take place against Zambia on Jan. 9 at 11:30 p.m. (KST) in Rustenburg. Zambia is ranked 84th in the FIFA world ranking and failed to advance out of Group C of the African qualifiers for the World Cup. Korea holds an all-time record of one win and one loss against Zambia.

Korea will then play two more matches against South African professional clubs. The second match will take place against the Platinum Stars of the Premier Soccer League at the Rustenburg Royal Bafokeng Stadium at midnight and the final match in South Africa will take place against Bay United of the National First Division at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Jan. 14 at 6 p.m.

In the next overseas training locale, Malaga, Korea will play three more friendly matches. The national team will face Finland on Jan. 18 at 11:30 p.m. and Latvia on Jan. 21 at 11:30 p.m., both at the Estadio de Atletismo Ciudad de Malaga. The KFA has yet to book an opponent for the third match, but it will take place on Jan. 23.

Finland and Latvia finished third in their respective qualifying groups. The former is ranked 55th in the world, and the latter is ranked 45th in the world. Korea has won two matches against Finland while it will be their first match against Latvia.

Upon returning on Jan. 25 from Spain, the national team will take a brief break before gathering in Mokpo, South Jeolla to prepare for the East Asian Football Championship from Feb. 6 to 14.

By Jason Kim []

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