Korea to face Colombia in Round of 16 at U-20 Cup

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Korea to face Colombia in Round of 16 at U-20 Cup

The young Taegeuk Warriors will play against Colombia in the Round of 16 at the U-20 World Cup on Thursday after they got past the group competition as the best wild card team.

Korea finished third in Group B after a 1-0 loss to Nigeria on Friday in Korean time, but was one of the four best third-placed teams. Two best teams from each of the six groups, including Portugal and Nigeria from Group B, earned an automatic berth to the Round of 16, while the third-placed teams had to wait until yesterday to see who would fill the four remaining slots. Korea, having earned four points, turned out to be the best of the wild-card teams, which also include Uzbekistan, Mexico and Ghana.

Uzbekistan also collected four points from Group F, but was behind Korea on goal difference. Mexico and Ghana earned three points from Group D and Group A, respectively.

Korea, managed by Lee Kwang-jong, will meet Colombia, the Group C winner, at Huseyin Avni Aker Stadium, Trabzon, northeastern Turkey, at 3 a.m. on Thursday, Korean time. It will be Korea’s third successive appearance at the final 16 of the U-20 World Cup. Korea advanced to the quarterfinals at the 2009 event in Egypt.

At the previous event held in Colombia in 2011, Korea, also managed by Lee, lost to Spain, 7-6, on a penalty shootout at the Round of 16. It was the sixth time overall that Korea advanced past the group competition at the U-20 World Cup.

Colombia won twice in Group C, including a 1-0 victory over the hosts Turkey, and drew once.

Korea met Colombia at the group stage of the previous U-20 World Cup, and lost, 1-0. Korea’s U-21 team, including many of the U-20 members, also lost to Colombia, 1-0, in the Toulon Tournament in France in May.

But, Korea has confidence against South American teams, which it met three times in the first knockout stage in the U-20 World Cup and won twice. Korea beat Uruguay, 2-1, in the quarterfinal of the U-20 World Cup in Mexico in 1983, reaching the semifinal for the first and only time.

The Round of 16 was introduced in 1997, with the previous events starting the knockout stages with the quarterfinals. Korea routed Paraguay, 3-0, in the Round of 16 at the 2009 event in Egypt. It lost to Brazil, 5-1, at the 1991 event in Portugal.

If Korea gets past Colombia, it will meet the winner of Iraq vs. Paraguay.

BY MOON GWANG-LIP [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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