(ATTN: ADDS more info in 9th para; FIXES info in 12th para)
By Joo Kyung-don
SEOUL, March 24 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will try to keep up their winning atmosphere when they host Colombia for a friendly football match this week.
After a quarterfinals elimination at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup in the United Arab Emirates, South Korea got off to a fresh start by beating Bolivia 1-0 in Ulsan on Friday. That was also South Korea's first home match of 2019.
South Korea, ranked 38th in the FIFA rankings, are now looking to extend that momentum against No. 12 Colombia. The two sides will go head-to-head at Seoul World Cup Stadium in the South Korean capital Tuesday.
History shows that South Korea have a better head-to-head record against Colombia, with three wins, two draws and one loss. The two teams last met in November 2017, and South Korea collected a 2-1 win in Suwon, south of Seoul, thanks to a double by Son Heung-min.
Son will try to repeat his previous performance against Colombia, this time as a center forward. The South Korean captain, who has 16 goals in 37 matches for Tottenham Hotspur this season, played full time against Bolivia as one of the two strikers upfront, leading the national team's offense with seven shots, although he failed to hit the net.
The 26-year-old is also looking to end his scoring drought with Paulo Bento's South Korea. Son has yet to score an international goal since Bento took the helm in August.
Son is not the only one on the squad who enjoyed the victory against Colombia in 2017. Goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu, defenders Choi Chul-soon and Kwon Kyung-won, and midfielders Lee Jae-sung and Kwon Chang-hoon also played against Colombia in the 2017 friendly.
Bento could test two new bloods who are looking for their international debuts. Both Lee Kang-in, the 18-year-old prospect from Valencia CF, and Paik Seung-ho, the 22-year-old midfielder from Girona FC, failed appear against Bolivia last week.
Bento tested a 4-4-2 formation with a midfield diamond against Bolivia, and he may use the same setup against Colombia. However, South Korea may miss FC Augsburg forward Ji Dong-won and Beijing Guoan defender Kim Min-jae, who both started against Bolivia. Ji and Kim missed Sunday's training after feeling pain in the left knee and left Achilles, respectively.
Colombia brought a 23-man squad for the friendly in Seoul. The South American powerhouse are coming off a 1-0 win over Japan, thanks to Radamel Falcao's penalty.
Among their star-studded roster, six players, including James Rodriguez of Bayern Munich, featured in the 2017 friendly against South Korea.
But this time, the visitors appear to be much stronger with addition of veteran players like Falcao, Colombia's all-time leading scorer with 33 goals. The AS Monaco striker didn't play against South Korea in 2017.
It will be also interesting to see how James, the top scorer at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, will perform in his second meeting against South Korea. The former Real Madrid attacking midfielder provided an assist for Colombia's goal in the last friendly but was contained by South Korean defenders most of the time.
In defense, Davinson Sanchez will reunite with his Tottenham teammate Son as a foe. He is likely to form Colombia's center defense with Yerry Mina of Everton.
The match also draws big interest from football fans after the South American powerhouse hired former Real Madrid and Portugal head coach Carlos Queiroz as their new boss last month.
Queiroz, who led Iran from April 2011 to January 2019, has been a nemesis to South Korea. While Queiroz was in charge of Iran, South Korea never defeated his team, drawing one and losing four matches.
The match will be also special to Bento, who will face his Portuguese compatriot. Bento was the successor to Queiroz for the Portuguese national team job in September 2010.
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