Korea seeks to advance in U-20 WC against FranceThe Korean U-20 football team will look to advance to the round of 16 at the U-20 World Cup in Colombia when they face France tomorrow at 7 a.m. (Korea Standard Time), despite being considered the underdog and losing a main defender to injury.
Korea got off to a solid start in the tournament after beating Mali 2-0, Sunday. The team earned three points for the win, but is currently second in Group A because Colombia beat France 4-1 and leads on goal difference.
The winner and runner-up in each of the six four-team groups, as well as the top four third-place teams, will advance to the next round.
If Korea wins tomorrow, it will secure a spot in the round of 16. But if it loses or ties, the team might find it difficult to move on to the next round with its final group match against home-crowd favorite Colombia.
Thus, Korean football experts say, if the U-20 team wants to move on, it should probably get it out of the way against France. Korea’s head coach, Lee Kwang-jong, 47, admitted that it’s not going to be easy against last year’s winner of the U-19 European Championship, but said the young Korean athletes will put in their best effort.
“[France] is a better team than us,” Lee said to the Korean daily Ilgan Sports. “We will first build a solid defense, then mount a counterattack.”
Korea already showed some sharp counterattacks in its game against Mali. Kim Kyung-jung and Baek Sung-dong struck from both sides of the flank and were Korea’s main offense for much of the match. Kim scored the first goal in the 50th minute, while Baek earned a penalty that led to a goal in the 80th minute. The two are again expected to be the main attackers against France, along with striker Lee Yong-jae.
But coach Lee’s main concern will be on defense, with center back Hwang Do-yeon out of the competition thanks to a cheek-bone fracture he received against Mali. “I thought [Hwang] broke his nose, but it was his cheek bone, which needs surgery within 72 hours.” Lee said. “We need to start a reserve who has been doing well.”
According to FIFA rules, teams can pick a replacement for their World Cup rosters 24 hours prior to their first match, meaning Korea can only use a player from the squad it took with it.
Min Sang-ki or Kim Jin-su are expected to fill that role and pair with team captain Jang Hyun-soo, who scored the team’s second goal against Mali. But they might find it difficult against English Premier League players like Gael Kakuta and Gilles Sunu.
“French players have good individual skill and technique,” Lee said. “Since we have a good opportunity to qualify, we won’t be careless and will prepare for the remaining games.”
By Joo Kyung-don [email@example.com]
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