Getting ready for the big kick-off

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Getting ready for the big kick-off

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Huh Jung-moo

As they prepare to step onto the big stage at the long-awaited 2010 South Africa World Cup, the national football team is gathering its players starting at noon today at the National Training Center in Paju, Gyeonggi.

Manager Huh Jung-moo has yet to announce his final 23-man roster, but is eyeing the May 16 friendly against Ecuador at Seoul World Cup Stadium as the final test for his domestic players.

The match is expected to net them plenty of opportunities to prove their mettle.

“After the friendly match against Ecuador, I will release the final 23-man roster with two to three additional injury reserve players,” said Huh. “I will not place a heavy burden on the overseas-based players who will be returning from a hectic schedule.”

Huh will start the training camp mostly with domestic players, and those participating in the AFC Champions League round of 16 are expected to arrive on Wednesday and Thursday.

Ki Sung-yeung of Celtic, Cha Du-ri of SC Freigburg and Park Chu-young of AS Monaco will join the team from day one, but Park Ji-sung of Manchester United and Lee Chung-yong of the Bolton Wanderers will arrive tomorrow. Lee Young-pyo of Al Hilal is set to join the team on Friday, while players from the Chinese and Japanese leagues, such as Ahn Jung-hwan, Lee Keun-ho and Lee Jung-soo, are set to arrive on May 16 and 17.

Huh’s biggest concern at this point is who he’ll put in at forward. Park Chu-young, the only forward who looked to have a guaranteed spot in the starting lineup, is recovering from a hamstring injury suffered in the May 1 French Cup final loss to Paris Saint-Germain. The 24-year-old scored eight goals and added three assists in the French Ligue 1, but is expected to need at least three weeks of rehabilitation.

With a mix of veterans like Lee Dong-gook, Ahn Jung-hwan and No Byung-jun and youngsters like Lee Keun-ho and Kim Shin-wook, Huh will have to narrow down his choices and come up with the right combination who can click on offense.

The final 23 men will train in Paju until they depart for Saitama on May 22 for a friendly against archrival Japan on May 24. Huh and his men will travel to Innsbruck, Austria, where they will tackle their last tune-up matches against Belarus on May 30 and Spain on June 3.

The national team decided on Innsbruck for its final training camp because of its high altitude, which is expected to help them prepare for the elevations in South Africa. A high-altitude training room has also been installed at the National Training Center.

Korea will play its first World Cup group match against Greece in Port Elizabeth on June 12 and will play Argentina in Johannesburg on June 17. The final group match against Nigeria is in Durban on June 22.

Meanwhile, Korea Football Association representatives are set to depart tomorrow for Zurich, Switzerland, the site of International Federation of Association Football headquarters, to submit their bid application for the 2022 World Cup.

Korea is expected to battle the United States, Japan, Qatar and Australia for the rights to host the 2022 Cup.

FIFA will send a group of representatives to Korea from July 22 to 25 to evaluate Korea’s bid and a final decision will be reached at a general meeting on Dec. 2.


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

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