The U-20 soccer team enters the tournament undefeated (1 win, 2 draws) after finishing their group stage at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. The team has been able to conserve the stamina of its starters and improve the match fitness of the rest of the squad.
South Korea played a goalless draw against the Gambia in the third match of Group F at the Mendoza Stadium in Argentina on Sept. 29 (KST). The South Koreans, who qualified for the round of 16 after the second round, finished the group stage unbeaten, finishing second in Group F behind the Gambia (2 wins, 1 draw) and advancing to the knockout stage. South Korea will face Group B runner-up Ecuador (2 wins, 1 loss) for a spot in the quarterfinals.
South Korea’s performance in the group stage was a mixed bag. Head coach Kim Eun-joong focused on improving his players’ lackluster performance. With the exception of Bae Jun-ho (Daejeon Hana Citizen) and Kang Sung-jin (FC Seoul), the players hadn’t gotten a chance to play for their clubs. Kim hadn’t had much time to train before the tournament, so it was a challenge for him to improve his organizational skills.
Kim arrived in São Paulo, Brazil, on the 7th of this month, more than two weeks before the first match, to begin acclimatization training. The team settled in quickly and won their first group game against France 2-1. With confidence high, the team fought back from a two-goal deficit against Honduras to earn a point. The team qualified for the round of 16, their primary goal, early.
This was a “good thing” for Kim Eun-jong-ho. It gave Kim a chance to rest his starting lineup. Kim left seven players out of the starting lineup against Honduras, including Lee Young-joon (Gimcheon Commerce), Lee Seung-won (Gangwon FC), and Kim Ji-soo (Seongnam FC). 먹튀검증 By making a major rotation ahead of the round of 16, he succeeded in securing the fitness of the main squad and also improved the practical sense of the candidates.
Kim Eun-joong-ho impressed with his four goals and three assists in the three group games, giving the team a well-balanced offense. Lee Seung-won, Lee Young-joon, Kim Yong-hak (Portimonense), and Park Seung-ho (Incheon United) each scored one goal, providing even firepower. The defense, built around Kim Ji-soo, and the two goalkeepers, Kim Jun-hong (Gimcheon) and Moon Hyun-ho (Chungnam Asan), were also solid. The only disappointing factor was that Park Seung-ho, who scored the equalizer against Honduras, injured his right ankle.
South Korea will face Ecuador in the round of 16. In the all-time series between the U-20 national teams, South Korea leads Ecuador 3-1. The Koreans have fond memories of beating Ecuador in Poland in 2019. Led by then-head coach Jung Jung-yong, the U-20s defeated Ecuador 1-0 on a goal by Choi Joon (Busan IPark) after a pass from Lee Kang-in (Mallorca) to reach their first-ever final.
This Ecuador U-20 team has a lot of firepower. Ecuador lost its first match against the United States 0-1, but then defeated Slovakia (2-1) and Fiji (9-0) to finish second in Group B and advance to the Round of 16. Ecuador is currently the highest-scoring team in the tournament (11 goals). The team’s concentration on the field is outstanding. They are riding high after scoring nine goals in their last three games before facing South Korea.
The player to watch for Ecuador is Kendry Paez (Independiente del Valle). The attacking midfielder was born in 2007. He’s been in the tournament since January 1, 2003, so he’s already been around for four years. He scored the game-winning goal against Fiji in Game 3. Watch out for striker Justin Cuero (Independiente del Valle), who is the tournament’s top scorer (3 goals). He is physically gifted and has a fierce eye for goal.
“The teams in the tournament are all strong teams with distinct colors,” said Kim Eun-joong, who led the team to the round of 16. We need to prepare thoroughly,” he said, adding, “We are cautious because it is a one-game match, but we will prepare well to get a result.”