Nat’l team taking shape as the World Cup nears

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Nat’l team taking shape as the World Cup nears

The national football team concluded its overseas training camp with a 1-0 win over Latvia early Saturday morning, meaning manager Huh Jung-moo is now one step closer to trimming his lineup for the 2010 World Cup.

The national team is set to play Cote d’Ivoire in London on March 3, and Huh will be allowed to bring in all his players, including those playing professional football in Europe and the Middle East.

Huh has stated that the team he fields in the friendly match against the African powerhouse will, in all likelihood, feature the players who make the 23-man final roster for the World Cup in June.

“Cote d’Ivoire can be classified as one of the top teams at the upcoming World Cup,” Huh told the media on Saturday. “The game should provide our players with the opportunity to prepare against a top team and also boost their confidence. I wanted to wait until the last moment to select the right group of players, but we’re running out of time. We need to see our best against a strong team.”

Although the friendly match against Cote d’Ivoire will be a good indication of the final 23-man roster for the World Cup, Huh will make the official announcement in late April or early May. Under Korean Football Association rules, Huh will be able to call in his players for training on May 11, exactly 30 days before the start of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. If the K-League clubs are cooperative and allow the KFA to start training camp about a week early, Huh is expected to announce the final roster by late April.

The national team will next compete in the East Asian Football Championship tournament in Tokyo, Japan starting Feb. 6. The national team is set to gather at the Mokpo International Football Center in South Jeolla starting Jan. 30. With J-League players Lee Keun-ho and Kwak Tae-hwi expected to join the training, the upcoming tourney in Tokyo will be the last shot for K-League and J-League players to make an impression on the national team coaching staff.

“We are ideally looking to include team players who have a good set of skills and the physical strength to compete against the world’s best for the entire 90 minutes,” Huh said.

Huh and the coaching staff are looking to secure three international matches in the month of May. Aside from requesting a South American team, “we are also pursuing a match against Japan on May 24. After the match, we will leave for a training camp in Austria and will play a European team on May 30,” said Huh.

The national team will play in its final friendly match against Spain on June 3 in Austria.


By Jason Kim [jason@joongang.co.kr]

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