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Football team heads to Austria for pre-World Cup training

June 04,2018
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The Korean men’s football team poses for a photo at Incheon International Airport before departing for Austria on Sunday. [YONHAP]
The Korean men’s football team left for Austria on Sunday for pre-World Cup training as they try to redeem themselves from a disappointing run at the 2014 tournament.

Before leaving, Korea, ranked 61st in the world, won a friendly match against No. 59 Honduras 2-0 on May 28, but lost against No. 41 Bosnia and Herzegovina on Friday 3-1.

Against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Korea’s head coach, Shin Tae-yong, tested a back three system that turned out to be a disaster. Midfielder Ki Sung-yueng of Swansea City, who also serves as captain, played defense along with Oh Ban-suk of Jeju United and Yun Young-sun of Seongnam FC, but they displayed a lack of teamwork.

Defense has been considered Korea’s biggest weakness, and the crew seemed to have little familiarity with the back three system. Bosnia and Herzegovina took advantage of Korea’s weakness, allowing the first goal to Edin Dzeko in the 27th minute. Shortly after in the 30th minute, Lee Jae-sung squared the match with a goal assisted by Hwang Hee-chan of Red Bull Salzburg.

But that was the end for Korea. The team allowed Dzeko to score two more goals, giving him a hat trick.

“We need to improve on everything,” striker Son Heung-min said after the match. “I think everything was just disappointing.”

Because the formation was new, Son said he was unsure if players fully understood it. Rather than picking areas to improve on, he urged his teammates to focus on changing their mind-set.

“If we continue like this, we might end up a lot worse than 2014,” he said, referring to the World Cup when Korea failed to make the round of 16. “I’m not trying to drop players’ confidence. We need to be more serious in preparing for the World Cup.”

After the match, Shin announced his final 23-man roster, which excluded Kim Jin-su of the Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Lee Chung-yong of Crystal Palace and Kwon Kyung-won of Tianjin Quanjian FC.

“We didn’t show everything in the friendly matches,” Shin told Yonhap. “I gave fair opportunities to all 26 players because if I dropped some of the players without giving them a chance to play, there could be complaints.”

On May 14, Shin had revealed a pool of 28 players, five more of whom would have to be dropped before the final roster was announced. His decision on who to strike got a bit easier last week after Gangwon FC’s Lee Keun-ho and Dijon FCO’s Kwon Chang-hoon, both midfielders, dropped out due to injuries.

“We have yet to meet fans’ expectations, so we’ll do our best,” Ki, captain of the team, told Yonhap. “The players will also compete at the World Cup with a sense of urgency, so I hope many fans can give us support.”

While training in Austria, Korea will play two more friendly matches against Bolivia and Senegal, before leaving for St. Petersburg, Russia on June 12.

Korea is assigned in Group F at the World Cup with Sweden, Mexico and Germany. Korea will play its first game against Sweden on June 18.

“We’ll work hard not only for [the players who missed the final cut], but also all the players who have competed for the national team,” Ki said.

BY SONG JI-HOON, KANG YOO-RIM [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]