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S. Korea bracing for defensive challenges against Brazil

All News 17:52 May 30, 2022

By Yoo Jee-ho

PAJU, South Korea, May 30 (Yonhap) -- After dominating ball possession against mostly inferior foes in recent months, South Korea will be in for a rude wakeup call when they host Brazil this week.

From Neymar to Vinicius Junior to Philippe Coutinho, Brazil, world No. 1, will come at opponents from all angles. And Paulo Bento, South Korea's head coach, wants his players to understand the Brazil match will be "a different game than the games we've played before."

Paulo Bento, head coach of the South Korean men's national football team, speaks to reporters at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on May 30, 2022. (Yonhap)

Paulo Bento, head coach of the South Korean men's national football team, speaks to reporters at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on May 30, 2022. (Yonhap)

"We're not going to dominate the game against Brazil as we dominated some games we've played before. We're going to play more time in our defensive midfield than before," Bento told reporters at the start of training camp Monday at the National Football Center (NFC) in Paju, just north of Seoul in Gyeonggi Province.

South Korea, ranked 29th, will take on Brazil at 8 p.m. Thursday at Seoul World Cup Stadium. It will be the first of four matches for South Korea in June, with Chile (June 6), Paraguay (June 10) and Egypt (June 14) also on the horizon in their preparation for this year's FIFA World Cup.

"We will try everything to win the game. Of course, we know what kind of opponent we are going to face, one of the best teams in the world," Bento said of Brazil. "We are expecting many, many difficulties playing against a very good team with very good players, players with a lot of experience playing for best clubs. So it will be a tough game, for sure and at the same time, a challenge for us."

Specifically, Bento said he will call on his wingers to be sharper on the defensive end.

"Our wingers need to defend more in our zone than in previous games," Bento said. "Of course, we'll try to attack when we can. But we need to understand in our mind that we're going to defend more in this game than in the games we played before."

Paulo Bento, head coach of the South Korean men's national football team, speaks to reporters at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on May 30, 2022. (Yonhap)

Paulo Bento, head coach of the South Korean men's national football team, speaks to reporters at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on May 30, 2022. (Yonhap)

The task of containing Brazil has been rendered even more difficult for South Korea due to the absence of their best center back, Kim Min-jae, who is out with an ankle injury.

"Min-jae has a lot of influence in the way we can play, due to his qualities and to his features. He's the fastest player we have in the defensive line," Bento noted. "We must seek to change a bit our strategy and our way of playing in the defensive way."

Bento does have one attacking option that should be the envy of many countries: the reigning Premier League Golden Boot winner, Son Heung-min.

Son, who was once criticized for deferring too much when playing on the national team, has taken on more of the scoring load of late. And Bento said Son's status as the Premier League scoring champion won't necessarily alter the team's strategy, since it is "almost impossible" to give Son any more offensive freedom than he already has now.

South Korea have scheduled three matches against South American teams, ostensibly to prepare for a match against Uruguay in the group stage at the World Cup.

Paulo Bento, head coach of the South Korean men's national football team, speaks to reporters at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on May 30, 2022. (Yonhap)

Paulo Bento, head coach of the South Korean men's national football team, speaks to reporters at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on May 30, 2022. (Yonhap)

Bento said, however, that features and characteristics for the three upcoming teams and Uruguay are quite different, though all four teams are connected by their competitiveness.

"The only characteristic that we can find in all of them is the way they compete and how aggressive they are in most part of the time, defensively and offensively as well," Bento said. "For us, that kind of thing is a good experience. If we don't play with the same level of aggressiveness with this kind of team, our chance to compete (at the World Cup) will be lesser than if we compete in the right way."

Paulo Bento, head coach of the South Korean men's national football team, speaks to reporters at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on May 30, 2022. (Yonhap)

Paulo Bento, head coach of the South Korean men's national football team, speaks to reporters at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on May 30, 2022. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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