By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, March 27 (Yonhap) -- As South Korea prepare to host Uruguay in a rematch of a group stage showdown at last year's FIFA World Cup, South Korean defender Kim Min-jae said Monday he has one particular player on his mind.
Real Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde will have a bull's-eye on his back when the two countries renew their rivalry at Seoul World Cup Stadium at 8 p.m. Tuesday. He is one of the most dangerous players on a rebuilding Uruguay team missing some veterans from the World Cup, and he also earned the ire of South Korean fans at the World Cup with a hard tackle on Lee Kang-in, a beloved football player here, and with a particularly-charged celebration afterward.
"Valverde is a great shooter. Whenever he comes within his shooting range, I have to get in the way and block his attempts," Kim said at a prematch press conference at the National Football Center in Paju, 30 kilometers northwest of Seoul. "They are missing some players, but they are still a great team. They will come at you hard and throw their bodies around, and we have to be prepared to respond."
As for getting back at Valverde for his action during the goalless draw at the World Cup, Kim said no revenge is sweeter than a victory.
"I don't think we can get too emotional," Kim said. "If we win tomorrow, then it will make him angry."
In his first season with Napoli in the top Italian league, Kim has emerged as one of the best central defenders in Europe. With South Korea having blown a two-goal lead to settle for a 2-2 draw against Colombia last Friday, Kim is determined to keep Uruguay off the board this time.
"We lost our concentration in conceding those two goals and also the control of the match," Kim recalled of the previous game. "We have players who are capable of scoring in any given match. So as long as we don't allow any goals against Uruguay, we should be able to win the match."