By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, May 17 (Yonhap) -- Eyeing a third straight trip to the knockout stage, South Korea wrapped up their training camp for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Brazil on Wednesday and headed to the host country of Argentina.
The Korea Football Association (KFA) announced that South Korea's under-20 squad, coached by Kim Eun-jung, concluded their 10-day camp in Brazil earlier Wednesday and embarked on a trip to Mendoza, western Argentina, the site of all three group stage matches for South Korea.
South Korea will play in Group F, one of six groups of four. The top two teams from each group, along with the four best third-place teams, will reach the round of 16.
South Korea were the runners-up to Ukraine at the previous U-20 World Cup in 2019 and made it to the round of 16 in 2017. The 2021 edition of this biennial tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
South Korea will open the group stage against France at 3 p.m. next Monday in Mendoza (3 a.m. Tuesday in Seoul). They will then take on Honduras at 6 p.m. on May 25 (6 a.m. on May 26 in Seoul), and Gambia at 6 p.m. on May 28 (6 a.m. on May 29 in Seoul).
The tournament was originally set to be held in Indonesia, but the country was stripped of hosting rights on March 29 due to continued protests of Israel's participation. FIFA moved the event to Argentina on April 17, putting South Korea, along with other competing teams, in a scrambling mode.
It hasn't helped the coach that most of his 21 players had been playing sparingly for their respective clubs at the time of their U-20 national team callup.
Speaking to reporters on May 7, before departing for Brazil, coach Kim had said he was most concerned about the players' fitness level.
"I've stressed the importance of aggressive pressing and quick transition. Great conditioning has to be the foundation," Kim said. "We will try to put pressure on the opponents in the attacking zone and play at a high pace."
As for feeling any pressure to repeat the runner-up showing from four years ago, Kim said, "I think it can fuel confidence of our players. Knowing recent history, they believe they can match that performance this year with good preparation and hard work."
Seongnam FC defender Kim Ji-soo, who recently received an offer from the Premier League club Brentford, will be the anchor on the backline. FC Seoul winger Kang Sung-jin, who has scored for the senior national team, will be counted upon to lead the attack.