National team takes off for final training run

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National team takes off for final training run

Coming off of a convincing 2-0 win over archrival Japan on Monday, the national football team departed yesterday for Austria to begin a final stretch of training before their first appearance in the 2010 South Africa World Cup.

The training camp is located in Neustift, 1,200 meters above sea level, and is seen as an ideal proving ground for the national team as they prepare for a series of friendly games ahead of their first World Cup match against Greece in Port Elizabeth on June 12. Korea’s second match, against Argentina on June 17, is to take place in Johannesburg, which is located 1,753 meters above sea level. Korea’s last group match will take place against Nigeria in Durban on June 22.

According to the coaching staff, the national team players will work on strategies that target each of their World Cup opponents. Korea is expected to focus on improving the fluidity and speed of its counterattacks, as well as set-piece formations following a stoppage in play involving the right-footed Ki Sung-yeung and the left-footed Yeom Ki-hun. National team players are also expected to train with oxygen masks, which will help them get used to playing at a high altitude.

“We still have a lot of areas to improve on,” said national team manager Huh Jung-moo. “I want to work on some of the shortcomings that we noticed during the friendly match against Japan. We are going to Austria to get acclimated to the high altitude, but considering we only have one group stage match in a high altitude setting, we will not place too big an emphasis on it. We need to work on precise passing and teamwork for our transition game, from defending to counterattacks.”

Also on Huh’s agenda is setting the final 23-man roster for the World Cup. With Park Chu-young, Lee Dong-gook and Kim Jae-sung making quick recoveries from their respective injuries, the competition to make the final list and the battle for starting spots is expected to heat up. Some of the younger players on the team will have a shot at impressing the coaching staff in an upcoming friendly against Belarus.

Huh and his coaching staff must decide on a 23-man roster and submit the list to FIFA by June 2, Korea time. In addition, three extra men are allowed on the list as injury reserve players.

“The most important thing is that all 26 current team members are going to South Africa. We will use many of our backup players for the match against Belarus but will start our top players for the final friendly against Spain,” Huh explained.

Huh and his coaching staff are also looking to North Korea for pointers as they prepare to compile scouting reports on their World Cup opponents. Having qualified for its first World Cup since 1966, North Korea has been grouped with Brazil, Ivory Coast and Portugal. North Korea is set to play Greece in a tune-up match today in Altach, Austria.

“I want to see how our opening game opponent Greece plays against North Korean players, who have physiques that are similar to those of our players,” said Huh.

Austria is a popular site as the final training camp for many national teams - 20, to be exact - due to its high altitude and because it is in the same time zone as South Africa.

The national team will play Belarus on May 30 and Spain on June 4 before they set up base camp in Rustenburg, South Africa, starting on June 5.

By Jason Kim []
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