There’s been a slow and sporadic drip-drip of Korean national team news leading up to a World Cup year, including base camp, friendlies and other. Let’s go through some of the news and catch up ahead of the three low-level friendlies in the next couple of weeks.
January training camp:
The KNT goes to Turkey! Shin Tae-yong is a fan of these kinds of training camp settings and will be taking the non-Europe based players to Turkey for a training camp. Spots will (maybe) be on the line and it will be an opportunity for Shin to fine-tune preparation alongside the rest of the coaching staff.
A reminder of the roster:
GK Kim Seunggyu (Vissel Kobe), Kim Dongjun (Seongnam FC), Cho Hyunwoo (Daegu FC)
DF Yun Youngsun, Hong Chul (both Sangju), Jang Hyunsoo (FC Tokyo), Kim Younggwon (Guangzhou Evergrande), Jeong Seunghyeon (Sagan Tosu), Kim Minjae, Kim Jinsu, Choi Chulsoon (all Jeonbuk), Ko Yohan (FC Seoul)
MF Jung Wooyoung (Vissel Kobe), Lee Chandong, Lee Changmin (both Jeju), Kim Seongjun (FC Seoul), Lee Keunho (Gangwon), Lee Jaesung, Lee Seunggi, Son Junho (all Jeonbuk), Kim Taehwan (Sangju), Kim Seungdae (Pohang)
FW Kim Shinwook (Jeonbuk), Jin Seongwook (Jeju)
Here’s the full list of opponents:
Moldova (Jan 27th, 8am EST, 10pm KST)
Jamaica (Jan 30th, 6am EST, 8pm KST)
Latvia (Feb 2nd, 9.30am EST, 11.30pm KST)
Only Jamaica should really pose a relative test – Moldova and Latvia are low-tier European sides that should see a pretty comfortable blow-out (hopefully).
All games will be played in Turkey and broadcast on Korean television.
Poland and Northern Ireland Friendlies:
The next occasion for the senior team and the whole domestic pool to meet up will be the March international break, in which the KNT will likely be able to schedule two matches. In the 2014 cycle, Greece were the opponents. This time around, it’s another pair of European sides, Poland and Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland are another European team that fall into the more prototypical so-called ‘English game’ category, so this will be another test for the centrebacks and defense core to play against physical opposition. Their biggest strength – the dead ball. Set pieces are key to N. Ireland success. Though ranked in the top 30 in the world, Northern Ireland missed out on the World Cup after succumbing to Switzerland in the playoffs on a doubtful penalty decision.
The Poles shielded themselves throughout the past years, opting not to play friendlies in order to play the FIFA Rankings system and remain in the top 7 (which they did) giving them a top seed in the draw. With Japan in their group, it will be their opportunity to play an Asian side.
From a Korean standpoint, dealing with Lewandowski may give the defense a chance to prepare for Berg and the Swedes? (I don’t know much about Poland). In any case it will be an away fixture in Chorzow, Poland on the 27th of March, which will give the Koreans a test for redemption after the nightmare on the road in Moscow.
Northern Ireland (Mar 24th, 10am EDT, Mar 25th 11am KST)
Poland (Mar 27th, 2.45pm EDT, Mar 28th 3.45am KST)
The other teams:
Sweden will play Chile on March 24th (potentially a test for Mexico), their second friendly is yet to be determined. They will have training camp friendlies in the UAE against Estonia and Denmark in early January, if you want to scout the enemy. (Take with grain of salt, the January call-ups are Sweden-based and not indicative whatsoever of their A-team).
Germany will use their March friendlies against Spain and Brazil, fellow World Cup favorites.
Mexico has a training camp friendly lined up against Bosnia and Herzegovina on January 31st, before the whole national selection will be available for their tune-ups against Iceland and Croatia. (Scandinavian opponent presumably to draw conclusions ahead of the Sweden clash… otherwise do we play like Croatia? Perhaps just a generic friendly.)
Korea will be based out of St. Petersburg for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, staying at the New Peterhof Hotel and training at the Spartak Stadium facilities. Seol Korea on Big Soccer Korea explains that it wasn’t the KNT’s top choice:
The base camps in Moscow isn’t bad, but Saint Petersburg is definitely better in terms of infrastructure. Shin Tae-yong is definitely eyeing the Hilton Saint Petersburg ExpoForum/Olimpiyets Stadium and the Belmond Grand Hotel Europe/Training Base FC Zenit.
Though Moscow is closer to the locations of the Korean games, Kim Da-eop of the KFA explained that they wanted to provide a restful environment for the players that “felt like home” and the high traffic problems in Moscow meant they opted for the longer plane flights of St. Petersburg.
St. Petersburg is approximately 1,140 kilometers away from Nizhny Novgorod, and 1,824 km away from Rostov-on-Don. It’s 1,540 km from Kazan.
The actual plane flights are 90 minutes from St. Petersburg to Nizhny Novgorod for the first game, 2 hours and 15 minutes for the voyage to Rostov-on-Don and 2 hours for the final group match against Germany in Kazan. I’m no expert, but probably only the flight to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad would have had a big effect in swaying the decisions for any team concerned about travel teams. No games in the middle of Amazon here.
Nonetheless, apparently Shin Tae-yong was very involved in the decision…
“For our residence, Shin has checked every detail, from the color of the curtains to carpet quality.” -the KFA
Off-topic: Chung Hyeon – what a guy! Into the quarters of the Australian Open & after beating Novak Djokovic no less! Good sporting vibes for 2018 – a BIG sports year for Korea!