Taeguk Warriors begin training for Asian CupKorea has begun training for the upcoming continental football tournament in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after most of their squad arrived in the Middle Eastern country.
The men’s national football team, led by head coach Paulo Bento, kicked off training at Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, local time, for the 2019 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup. The 24-team tournament will be hosted by the UAE from Jan. 5 to Dec. 1.
Korea arrived in Abu Dhabi with 17 players, including two reserve members, early Sunday after flying more than 10 hours from home.
Seven players - Ki Sung-yueng, Koo Ja-cheol, Ji Dong-won, Hwang hee-chan, Lee Jae-sung, Lee Chung-yong and Jung Seung-hyun - are scheduled to join the national team over the next day.
Tottenham Hotspur star Son Heung-min is the only Korean player who will play for the national team after the tournament kickoff, following an agreement between his English Premier League club and the KFA.
Ahead of rejoining the national team, Son seems to be playing his best as he scored two goals during an EPL match against Everton on Sunday. Spurs had a big 6-2 win in Son’s first two-goal match of the season. With two goals, Son has now scored eight this season.
The 26-year-old forward will join the national team after playing in Tottenham’s clash against Manchester United on Jan. 13.
Bento announced his 23-man roster for the Asian Cup last Thursday. He will try to prepare his players for the tournament and adjust to the football environment in the UAE. Korea is also scheduled to play a friendly match against Saudi Arabia next Monday.
Some of the players were suffering from minor injuries and couldn’t participate in full training while staying in their training camp in Ulsan last week.
Asan Mugunghwa midfielder Ju Se-jong was diagnosed with a muscle strain in his left thigh, but was able to make the final roster, while Guangzhou Evergrande defender Kim Young-gwon sustained a minor ankle injury during Korea’s practice match against the under-23 national team in Ulsan.
Daejeon Citizen midfielder Hwang In-beom, Suwon Samsung Bluewings left-back Hong Chul and Busan IPark right-back Kim Moon-hwan all had difficult times engaging in full trainings with the squad due to their physical conditions.
Before departing for Abu Dhabi, Bento said his side has had enough time to adjust to the local weather and prepare for the tournament.
The Taegeuk Warriors have been drawn in Group C for the competition alongside China, the Philippines and Kyrgyzstan in this year’s Asian Cup.
Bento’s side will start their Asian Cup campaign against the Philippines at Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai on Jan. 7, and will face Kyrgyzstan four days later at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain. Korea will meet China at Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Jan. 16 to close their group stage action.