Upcoming Korea, Japan football match anything but friendly

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Upcoming Korea, Japan football match anything but friendly

Heated rivalries often bring out the best players.

That certainly will be the case in the upcoming friendly match between Korea and Japan - even though the game won’t count in the standings.

Players with the Korean national football team are focused and determined to beat their archrivals tomorrow night when the two teams meet at World Cup Stadium in Seoul.

Thirteen players from the K-League joined the national team at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi, yesterday, while 11 overseas-based players, including captain Park Ji-sung, arrived in Korea last Thursday. With everyone together, the national team held its first full training session yesterday evening.

“I will be playing in my first game against Japan on home soil,” Park told reporters yesterday at the NFC. “Everyone on the team is well aware that this is a must-win game.”

With a long history between the two nations, Korean players have historically shown true determination when facing Japan.

Korea holds the edge in all-time matchups with a record of 40 wins, 20 draws and 12 losses.

More importantly, Korea has won both its games against Japan this year, downing its rival 3-1 at the East Asian Football Federation tourney in Tokyo in February and sailing to a 2-0 victory in May in Saitama, Japan.

However, the Japanese national team - led by new manager Alberto Zaccheroni - is entering the match brimming with confidence, having pulled off a stunning 1-0 upset over Argentina in Saitama on Friday.

National team manager Cho Kwang-rae is expected to make some changes to the offense after his squad struggled to get much going against Iran in a 1-0 loss in Seoul on Sept. 7. Park Chu-young and Lee Chung-yong are expected to start, while Yeom Ki-hun, Cho Young-cheol, Lee Seung-yeoul and Choi Sung-kuk will likely rotate into the other forward spot.

“It’s a big match anytime Korea faces Japan,” Yeom said. “I will play to the best of my abilities so that we can win the match. I didn’t get to watch Japan’s latest game against Argentina. We won both matches against Japan this year so I expect another win for us.”

Despite Korea’s favorable record, players said they are well aware of Japan’s improvements since the 2010 World Cup in June.

“Shinji Kagawa of Borussia Dortmund has looked especially dangerous,” said Jung Sung-ryong of Seongnam Ilhwa. “I’ve watched several of his matches, and he looked threatening.”

The Japanese national team arrived in Korea yesterday for the friendly match, which will take place at Seoul World Cup Stadium at 8 p.m.

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