Young guns pray for upset against Spain

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Young guns pray for upset against Spain

Korea’s U-20 football team survived Saturday’s 1-0 loss to hosts Colombia to advance to the round of 16 at the U-20 World Cup in Manizales, but it might need a miracle to beat Spain and book its berth in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Korea finished third in Group A after racking up one win and two losses, but made it to the next round courtesy of the tournament’s format, which allows the four best-positioned third-placed teams to qualify. As such, Korea scraped through with England, Costa Rica and Guatemala, which join the top two finishers from each of the six groups in the next round.

However, Korea will have its work cut out when it faces the favorites on Thursday at 7 a.m. Korea Standard Time for a hope of making its second straight appearance in the quarters.

Korea has never beaten Spain on the football field at any level, although the senior side has managed two draws to help offset its two losses in past encounters. To make matters worse, the U-20 side heads into the match with no experience of playing Spain since it first fielded a team.

Spain cruised through Group C to finish first with three wins and 11 goals, conceding only two goals. This put it second to Nigeria in the group stage as the experienced Africans scored one goal more.

Much like the senior side that won last year’s FIFA World Cup in Germany, the younger Spaniards are famous for their passing and sharpness in attack, which can unlock even the stingiest of defences.

The team is stacked with talented players from both La Liga and the English Premier League, and striker Alvaro Vazquez has already established himself as the leading scorer of the tournament with four goals. If his hat-trick against Australia yesterday didn’t rattle the nerves of Korean goalkeepers Yang Han-been and No Dong-geon, they must have nerves of steel. On Thursday, the selected keeper may require heroic skills, but he will also need to marshal his defenders well to hold off the expected onslaught from Spain’s forwards. At the same time, the team will have to gel more cohesively than it has so far shown itself capable of to keep the wolves at bay.

Korea had it relatively easy in its opener against Mali, which it won 2-0. The side then crumbled 3-1 to France and 1-0 to crowd favorite Colombia in the absence of defensive stalwart Hwang Do-yeon, who suffered a cheek-bone fracture in the first game. This hole must be patched up quickly if Spain is not to tear it wide open.

Korea’s forwards also need to rediscover the fire in their belly if the last game was any barometer. They managed only three shots on target in eight attempts against Colombia, less than half their opponents’ tally. Experts also criticized the players for giving away possession too easily and missing passes.

Kim Dae-gil, a commentator for cable station KBS N Sports, told Yonhap News Agency on Saturday that Korea needs to adopt a more aggressive strategy and “pressure the opponent more closely, while improving the quality of passes from defenders to attackers.”

Head coach Lee Kwang-jong, 47, said the players would be spending the next few days analyzing its weaknesses. “We will prepare hard and play a good game,” he said.


By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]


한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

[U-20 월드컵] 턱걸이 16강 한국 앞에 거함 스페인

조 최종전서 콜롬비아에 0-1패
와일드카드로 우승후보와 격돌


한국 20세 이하(U-20) 축구대표팀이 2011 국제축구연맹(FIFA) U-20 월드컵 16강전에서 우승 후보 스페인과 만나게 됐다.

 한국은 6일(한국시간) 콜롬비아 보고타에서 열린 조별리그 A조 마지막 경기에서 콜롬비아에 0-1로 져 1승2패로 조 3위에 그쳤다. 그러나 승점 3점을 확보한 한국은 총 6개조의 3위 팀 중 상위 4개 팀에 속해 와일드카드로 16강에 진출하게 됐다.

 한국의 16강 상대는 7일 결정됐다. 조별리그가 이날 모두 끝나면서 조별 순위가 확정됐고, 한국은 C조 1위를 차지한 스페인과 8강 진출을 두고 격돌하게 됐다. 한국과 스페인은 11일 오전 7시 콜롬비아 칼리에서 16강전을 치른다.

 한국이 A조 3위로 힘겹게 16강에 오른 반면 스페인은 조별리그 3전승으로 2라운드에 진출했다. 스페인은 7일 열린 C조 조별리그 최종전에서 호주를 5-1로 눌렀다. 스페인은 조별리그 세 경기에서 11골을 몰아쳤다. 공수 전환이나 개인기 등이 한국보다 한 수 위다.

 호주전에서 해트트릭을 기록한 스페인의 알바로 바스케스(에스파뇰)는 한국의 경계대상 1호다. 그는 이번 대회 4득점으로 득점 선두에 올라 있다. ‘선수비 후역습’ 전략을 주로 쓰는 한국으로서는 가장 조심해야 할 상대다.

 U-20 대표팀의 이광종 감독은 “콜롬비아전 내용은 전반적으로 좋지 않았지만 16강에서는 멋진 경기를 보여주겠다”며 “선수들의 체력이 많이 떨어져 있는 만큼 체력 보강과 상대 전력 분석에 힘쓰겠다”고 말했다.

 한편 D조에 소속된 나이지리아는 조별리그 3차전에서 2-0으로 사우디아라비아를 꺾고 조 1위를 차지했다. 과테말라는 크로아티아를 1-0으로 꺾어 1승2패로 조 3위를 유지하며 16강에 올라섰다. D조 3위인 과테말라는 B조 1위로 16강에 진출한 포르투갈과 8강을 두고 결전을 벌이게 됐다.
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