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Men's senior nat'l football team to face U-23 squad in World Cup tuneups

2018 World Cup Russia 11:51 July 24, 2020

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, July 24 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean men's senior national football team will play the under-23 national squad twice this fall in preparation for World Cup qualifying matches later in the year.

The Korea Football Association (KFA) announced on Friday that the tuneup matches between the two sides will take place during the FIFA international match window of Aug. 31-Sept. 8, with specific dates to be determined later. Both matches will be played at Goyang Stadium in Goyang, just northwest of Seoul.

The senior team, coached by Paulo Bento, will return to action in the second round of the Asian qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in October. The KFA had been trying to schedule international friendly matches for September ahead of the World Cup qualifiers, but travel restrictions in place during the coronavirus pandemic made it difficult to bring another national team to South Korea.

This image provided by the Korea Football Association on July 24, 2020, shows Paulo Bento (L), head coach of the South Korean men's senior national football team, and Kim Hak-bum, who coaches the men's under-23 national football team. These two teams will play two tuneup matches during the FIFA international match window of Aug. 31-Sept. 8. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The KFA noted that playing the U-23 squad, coached by Kim Hak-bum, will benefit both teams.

The senior team hasn't had any training in 2020, and the last competitive matches South Korea played came last December at the East Asian Football Federation (EAFF) E-1 Football Championship in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

Coach Kim hasn't held any camp since the U-23 team won the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship in Thailand in January. They're also gearing up for the Tokyo Olympics, postponed by one year to 2021 because of the pandemic.

The KFA said players based in foreign leagues will not be called up for these matches, citing the mandatory 14-day quarantine for all international arrivals to South Korea.

In the World Cup qualifying campaign, South Korea are in Group H of the second round, along with North Korea, Turkmenistan, Lebanon and Sri Lanka. Only South Korea have played four matches, while the others have each played five times so far.

In this file photo from Oct. 10, 2019, South Korean players pose for photos before fans following their 8-0 victory over Sri Lanka in the teams' Group H match in the second round of the Asian qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup at Hwaseong Sports Complex Main Stadium in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province. (Yonhap)

South Korea had been scheduled to host Turkmenistan on March 26 and then face Sri Lanka in Colombo five days later. Those matches have been moved to Oct. 8 and 13.

The highly anticipated all-Korea showdown would have been played on June 4, with a South Korea-Lebanon match to follow on June 9. They will instead be played on Nov. 12 and 17.

There are eight groups of five nations in the second round. The eight group winners and the four-best runners-up will advance to the third round.

South Korea are in second place in Group H with eight points from two wins and two draws. Turkmenistan are leading the way with nine points. Lebanon and North Korea both have eight points each but trail South Korea in goal difference.

The KFA said Bento and Kim agreed to organize the matches so that they could check on their players and also give football fans something to cheer about during the pandemic.

In this file photo from Jan. 26, 2020, South Korean players and coaches celebrate winning the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship over Saudi Arabia at Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok. (Yonhap)


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