Taeguk Warriors hope for historic 1st win against Uruguay
Korea, ranked 55th in the September FIFA rankings, will face fifth-ranked Uruguay at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Seoul today. It will be Korea’s first friendly this month before taking on Panama on Tuesday.
Korea have yet to beat Uruguay in men’s football, only collecting one draw and six losses. The two sides last met in September 2014, and Korea suffered a 1-0 loss.
The Taeguk Warriors will try to break a long winless drought against Uruguay with new head coach Paulo Bento, who made his Korea debut last month. Under Bento, Korea beat Costa Rica 2-0 and collected a 0-0 draw against Chile.
Bento announced the 25-man squad that includes six players who didn’t feature in September friendlies. A noticeable addition is Stade de Reims striker Suk Hyun-jun, who returned to the national team for the first time in two years.
Bento said he wanted to test Suk, who had stints with AFC Ajax and FC Porto, after FC Augsburg forward Ji Dong-won became unavailable due to injury. Suk, who has four goals in 11 matches, will compete for a starting spot with Hwang Ui-jo, who was the top scorer at the Asian Games.
Former Borussia Dortmund man Park Joo-ho is also looking for his first national team action under Bento. The 31-year-old can play as both a left back and defensive midfielder.
Goalkeepers will have fierce competition to win the starting spot since Jo Hyeon-woo, who was Korea’s No. 1 custodian at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, joined the national team. The Daegu FC goalkeeper was originally included in the roster for September friendlies, but was dropped later due to a knee injury.
Jo will have to compete against Kim Seung-gyu and Kim Jin-hyeon, who both play in the Japanese league.
Pohang Steelers midfielder Lee Jin-hyun, a member of the gold medal-winning team at the Asian Games, and Gyeongnam FC center back Park Ji-soo will try to make their first senior national team debut against Uruguay.
Against Uruguay, Bento said he’ll check whether his players execute tactics and display the team’s style of play.
The Portuguese tactician is especially looking to improve Korea’s offense, using players like Son Heung-min, Lee Jae-sung and Nam Tae-hee, who are expected to show their presence in the attacking third.
Korean attackers will need to overcome Uruguay’s solid defense that is led by Atletico Madrid’s veteran defender Diego Godin. He is one of seven players from the Uruguayan squad that faced Korea in the 2014 friendly.
Uruguay’s star-studded squad doesn’t include FC Barcelona star Luis Suarez, but Paris St. Germain striker Edinson Cavani and Girona target man Cristhian Stuani are ready to give stern tests to Korean defenders.
Cavani, who won scoring titles in the Italian Serie A and the French Ligue 1, is known for his movement off the ball and goal poaching instincts, while Stuani is currently the hottest striker in the Spanish La Liga. Stuani scored 21 goals in the top Spanish league last season, and he is currently the leading scorer with eight goals this season.
In the midfield, Korea need to deal with Uruguay’s star midfielders who are with big European clubs. Rodrigo Bentancur of Juventus, Lucas Torreira of Arsenal and Matias Vecino of Internazionale are likely to give a difficult time to Korean midfielders Ki Sung-yueng and Jung Woo-young.