The preparations have wrapped up, all the squads have arrived in Poland, and we are 2 days away from the first match in the FIFA U20 World Cup Poland 2019. Here at the Tavern, let’s focus in on our young Taegeuk Warriors and Group F, which kicks off Saturday morning.
How’s the squad doing in Poland?
Head coach Chung Jung-yong has gotten his 21-man roster together finally and they’ve arrived in Bielsko-Biala for their opening match with Portugal. The young Taegeuk Warriors got two victories in their closed-door friendlies with New Zealand and Ecuador, which is great! Unfortunately, since they were closed-door not much is known about how the squad played so I’ll try my best to piece together some thoughts before Saturday.
I think that the goalkeeper position is still up for grabs. Choi Minsoo (Kevin Harr) won the penalty shoot-out against New Zealand while Lee Gwangyeon kept a clean sheet against Ecuador. I couldn’t tell you who will start Saturday and we all saw at the last World Cup that there is time for a surprise GK pick. Lee Gwang-yeon is a youth player for Gangwon FC, where he got to learn from former KNT GK Lee Bumyoung during the 2017-2018 seasons. In addition, having his teammate Lee Jaeik as one of the CB starters would be helpful for him being able to organize/understand his backline.
Looking at both starting line-ups, it is looking highly likely that we will see a back three of Lee Jaeik, Lee Jisol, and Kim Hyunwoo. If you’re a fan of the back three, this will be a tournament for you to watch!
The midfield also looks to be pretty set. There will be a CM pairing of Kim Jungmin and Go Jaehyeon with Lee Kangin at CAM. The wingbacks will be Hwang Taehyeon at RWB and Choi Jun (or Lee Gyuhyeok, the late arrival) at LWB.
Up top? Cho Youngwook and Jeon Sejin. Let’s take a look at that in a 3-5-2 formation as well as a 3-4-3 wrinkle that could be employed towards the later stages of matches.
Well, let’s just say that Group F is good. Portugal are considered to be one of the favorites for the tournament after they won the 2018 UEFA U19 Championship to qualify for this World Cup. This tweet gives an idea of how scouts are very bullish on our group opponents. For Portugal on Saturday, we will need to put a lid on Trincao, who romped to 5 goals last summer. For Saturday, here’s hoping that Lee Seungwoo and Paik Seungho have spoken to the squad about how they want revenge on Portugal for knocking them out of the 2017 U20 World Cup. I was at that match and Lee Seungwoo looked especially frustrated that we got outclassed by Portugal that night.
The second match against South Africa is where we must get 3 points. This is South Africa’s debut U20 World Cup so we can hope the nerves of the big stage get to them. Both squads could be on zero points and desperate to avoid going into the final matchday with no points on the board.
For you MLS watchers, Argentina will have Atlanta United’s young star Ezequiel Barco in their attack. However, we should remember that Korea came out surprise 2-1 winners last time they played Argentina at the U20 World Cup group stage.
I’m optimistic that this squad has what it takes to make it out of another very tough group just like we did two years ago. Let’s say a second-place finish in Group F gives us a Haniljeon Round of 16 matchup with Japan!
Korea Republic v Portugal, May 25, 9:30 AM EST, 10:30 PM KST
Where: Stadion Miejski, Bielsko-Biala, Poland
TV Info: 9:30 AM EST, FS2/FSGo, NaverTV (we’ll tweet out the TV channel soon)
Feeling excited yet? See you Saturday morning, we’ll be live-tweeting!