Five days, and 400 minutes, to go

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Five days, and 400 minutes, to go

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Cha Du-ri sits aboard a bus after arriving with the national football team at the airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, on June 5. [AP/YONHAP]

The national football team is banking on 400 minutes to prepare for their World Cup opener against Greece.

Having arrived in their World Cup base camp in Rustenburg, South Africa, two days ago, the national team held its first team practice early yesterday at the Olympia Park stadium. Manager Huh Jung-moo plans to focus on improving his team’s conditioning and completing his team’s preparations for the opening match against Greece on Saturday.

“We’ll be focused and we’ll carefully prepare for the match against Greece. We’re planning on holding one practice per day until our opening match,” said Huh. “The only exception will be June 9, when I’ll give the players the day off to recuperate. We’ll be relocating on June 10, so I’m still undecided on whether we will hold practice on that day.”

Coming off their final friendly match against Spain last Friday in Innsbruck, Austria, and having endured a 10-hour flight from Austria, Huh had his men pace through a relatively light training session yesterday. The team will hold afternoon practices today and tomorrow, and after taking Wednesday off, they’ll fly to Port Elizabeth on Thursday.

One final team practice will be held on Saturday before the World Cup opener against Greece.

This means the national team will likely have four practices before the games begin, with two 120-minute, one 90-minute and one 70-minute sessions planned. It’s not a lot of time for the coaching staff to prepare the players for the crucial opener, but Huh and his assistants have calculated and planned the final days leading up to the World Cup carefully.

The focus of the preparations is not on pushing the players through harsh training sessions, but rather to improve their physical conditioning and work on game plans. Huh has set aside today as the only day in which he will put his players through a tough regimen; the rest of the days will be focused on practicing set pieces and positional training. This is largely due to the 10 overseas-based players, such as Park Ji-sung and Lee Chung-yong, who are coming off physically demanding seasons with their respective professional teams.

Having had plenty of opportunities to evaluate his players in the four friendlies against Ecuador, Japan, Belarus and Spain, Huh and his assistants are close to a setting a starting lineup. The only big decision remaining at this point is choosing a formation featuring one forward or two.

The coaching staff got a small scare during yesterday’s practice when forward Park Chu-young dislocated his left elbow during a light workout game. X-rays taken at a nearby hospital revealed no structural or bone damage, but considering it’s a chronic condition for Park, he will need to limit the use of his left arm for a day.

Park Ji-sung, who missed the friendly due to pain in his right hamstring, is on track to start in the opener. He kept out of the 0-1 against Spain as precautionary measure.

“There are no problems. He felt a slight pain and we kept him out of the game because we were concerned it could lead to an injury,” said Huh.


By Kim Jong-ryok, Jason Kim [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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