PAJU, South Korea, Sept. 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's training camp for two upcoming World Cup tuneup matches opened Monday, with the Taegeuk Warriors gearing up for their final tests at full strength before the big tournament.
Of the 26 players called up by head coach Paulo Bento last Tuesday, 20 reported to the National Football Center (NFC) in Paju, just north of Seoul in Gyeonggi Province.
Players based in Europe, including Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur, Kim Min-jae of Napoli and Lee Kang-in of RCD Mallorca, will enter the NFC either Monday evening or Tuesday.
There has been one injury-related change, with goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo being sidelined with knee issues and replaced by Kim Dong-jun.
South Korea will face Costa Rica at 8 p.m. Friday at Goyang Stadium in Goyang, northwest of Seoul, and then play Cameroon at 8 p.m. on Sept. 27 at Seoul World Cup Stadium.
These will be the final two matches for South Korea with all the top players available before the Nov. 20-Dec. 18 World Cup in Qatar. The Korea Football Association (KFA) is trying to schedule another friendly in November before the team's departure to the host country, but Bento won't be able to call up his Europe-based players for that occasion.
At the World Cup, South Korea will face Portugal, Uruguay and Ghana in Group H. This will be South Korea's 10th consecutive appearance in the World Cup. The Taegeuk Warriors have reached the knockouts twice: the semifinals in 2002 as the co-host and the round of 16 in 2010 in South Africa.
At the start of camp, Bento told reporters at the NFC that he welcomed an extra day of rest for players coming in from Europe. Earlier World Cup qualifying matches and friendlies had been played on a Thursday, leaving Europe-based players just one day to rest up and try to get on the same page with the rest of the squad.
"We will try to play as well as possible to improve our style. Maybe we will try to play in a different way in those games," Bento said. The coach didn't elaborate when pressed on how things will be different, and only said, "We'll see."
Son, the longtime captain, will arrive in particularly good form, after scoring a hat trick off the bench against Leicester City on Saturday in London. He had been held scoreless in six matches in the Premier League and two games in the UEFA Champions League prior to that outburst.
Bento had said last Tuesday, after calling up Son in a no-brainer move, said he hadn't been worried about Son's slow start to the season, and he reiterated that stance Monday.
"All the players during the season have very good moments and ones that are not so good. The most important (thing) is he's going to arrive in good condition, ready to play" he said. "The fact he didn't score during the first six games of the Premier League season doesn't mean he was playing bad. If you talk just about the goals they scored or assists they make ... football is more than that. Our evaluation of the players is not just (in) that kind of aspect."