South Korea will try to rebound from a deep slump when they take on Colombia in a friendly football match at home this week.
South Korea, No. 62 in the latest FIFA rankings, will host 13th-ranked Colombia at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, 46 kilometers south of Seoul, on Friday. Colombia are the highest-ranked opponent for South Korea this year.
The Taeguk Warriors qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in September but their poor performance has been a source of concern for fans. South Korea's only win this year came on March 28 when they beat Syria 1-0 at home in the final Asian World Cup qualifying round. Since then, they have managed three draws and three losses.
That put head coach Shin Tae-yong in hot water, with some angry fans calling for his head. The 48-year-old took the helm in July after Uli Stielike, but has yet to make a turnaround, collecting only two draws and two losses.
Shin will try to end the winless streak with help from two veteran coaches who had been with the Spain national team when they won the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the 2012 UEFA European Championship. Toni Grande and Javier Minano -- known for their achievements with Vicente Del Bosque at Real Madrid, Besiktas and Spain -- will assist Shin through the 2018 FIFA world Cup.
Shin has called up 23 players to assemble what he claimed is the best squad on his watch. In two previous friendlies against Russia and Morocco last month, Shin had to form the team only with foreign league-based players, since those with the domestic K League were not available due to their club schedules.
The national team's usual suspects, such as Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur, Ki Sung-yueng of Swansea City and Koo Ja-cheol of FC Augsburg, are all on the roster. They're joined by K League stars like Lee Jae-sung and Lee Keun-ho, both candidates for the 2017 K League Classic MVP.
Shin hinted at deploying Son as a striker in upcoming matches after watching how Tottenham used the 25-year-old attacker in their recent matches. Son, who became the highest-scoring Asian in the English Premier League history with 20 goals on Sunday, is likely to partner with forwards Lee Jeong-hyeop or Lee Keun-ho, or play alone up front. Son has been mainly playing on the flanks as his international role.
Shin said his side will now go "rough" against the opponents, asking the players not to be afraid of physical contact and to run tirelessly with a strong mentality. He also promised that their defensive work will be better than previous matches.
South Korea came up with an experimental back-three system in two friendly matches last month, but failed miserably as they fell 4-2 to Russia and lost 3-1 to Morocco.
Against Colombia, South Korean defenders will face their toughest challenge yet, taking on world-class attackers like James Rodriguez, who claimed the scoring title at the 2014 World Cup with six goals.
Led by Jose Pekerman, who won the FIFA U-20 World Cup three times with Argentina, Colombia have also secured their spot at the 2018 World Cup by finishing fourth in the South American World Cup qualifying campaign.
Although AS Monaco target man Radamel Falcao is out due to a thigh injury, Rodriguez, currently with Bayern Munich on loan from Real Madrid, will lead Colombia's offense along with Villarreal striker Carlos Bacca and Juventus winger Juan Cuadrado. On defense, Colombia will have players like Cristian Zapata of AC Milan and Davinson Sanchez, who is a teammate of Son's at Tottenham. Pekerman's side had the third-best defense in the South American World Cup qualifying round behind Brazil and Argentina, after surrendering 19 goals in 18 matches.
South Korea have a better head-to-head record against Colombia, with two wins, two draws and one loss, but their last meeting was in 2005. After playing against Colombia, South Korea will face Serbia next Tuesday in Ulsan, some 410 kilometers southeast of Seoul.
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