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Korea National Team Preview: Moldova, Jamaica, and Latvia


The K-League may not kick-off until March, but there’s still some Korean football this winter, albeit in the slightly warmer climes of Turkey. The South Korean National Team are in Antalya for a winter training camp and, as part of the camp, will take on Moldova on January 27th, Jamaica on January 31st, and Latvia on February 3rd. 
(image via SBS)

'Unofficial Friendlies'

The matches aren’t on official FIFA dates, so no European-based players will be involved. Neither will Kwon Kyung-won nor Yeom Ki-hoon who have ACL Champions’ League playoff matches to worry about with Tianjin Quanjian and Suwon Bluewings respectively.

Kim Dae-up, head of the KFA’s national team supervisory committee told Yonhap News Agency that finding opponents was difficult due to the dates not being in the FIFA calendar, and while the KFA wanted to play against similar opponents to their World Cup group, that clearly wasn’t possible. These opponents may be from the same continents as their World Cup group-stage opponents, but that’s where the similarities end, and the opposition’s level is far below what Korea will face at Russia 2018.

However, Shin Tae-yong wanted to play actual matches in order to test the players. When it comes to results, these games are more meaningless than most friendlies, so fans shouldn’t get too excited by an 8-0 win over Latvia, nor upset by a 2-0 defeat to Moldova. The matches are more so Shin can try out his tactics against real opposition.


Dae-Han-Jeon-Buk

The squad, minus Kwon and Yeom, is pretty similar to the side that won the E-1 East Asia Cup in Tokyo in December. It is chock-full with Jeonbuk players. There are seven in the squad in total, including the hero of Tokyo, Kim Shin-wook, and new signing Son Joon-ho. Jeonbuk fans may be a bit upset that so many of their players are with the national team rather than preparing for Jeonbuk’s assault on the K-League and Asian Champions’ League, but at the same time, with Jeonbuk’s big-name winter signings on top of the already huge wage disparity between Jeonbuk and the rest of the league, the camp is unlikely to stop Jeonbuk picking up a 4th K-League championship in five years.

For the rest of the squad, Shin Tae-yong has opted to take another look at Jeju United forward Jin Seong-wook. Jeju’s Lee Chang-dong and Lee Chang-min also make the squad, as does FC Seoul’s recent signing Kim Seong-jun. Jeonbuk’s Hong Jeong-ho and Ulsan’s Park Joo-ho, weren’t given a ticket to Turkey however, with Shin Tae-yong saying that they need to prove themselves at their new clubs before earning a national team place.


Cohesion is Key

Although the opposition might not be particularly strong (and will, like Korea, also probably be missing some of their better players), the chance for national team players to build team cohesion is key. Iceland’s recent successes are often attributed to their excellent youth and grassroots set-up, but another part of the equation, their squad stability, is often overlooked. Many of Iceland’s players have over fifty caps, and they have all played together so much that they know each other inside-out. This helped them punch above their weight over recent years. By putting in the time in January, Korea will hopefully be able to perform that little bit better in the summer, even if many of Korea’s top stars are absent from this training camp.

While these three friendly matches might help Shin Tae-yong get a closer look at some of the KNT’s fringe players, the matches against Northern Ireland on March 24th and Poland on March 28th will be a better indicator of how Korea’s world cup preparations are progressing.

by Steve Price (@kleaguefootball)


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