By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, May 18 (Yonhap) -- With the FIFA U-20 World Cup fast approaching in Argentina, South Korea head coach Kim Eun-jung said Thursday he is pleased with his team's preparation, as his players have already spent several days in the region to train and get acclimated to the surroundings.
Kim's 21-man squad for the tournament held a 10-day training camp in Brazil before traveling to Mendoza, Argentina, the site of their three group stage matches, Wednesday.
"Fortunately, the climates in the two countries are pretty similar, and the players should have little trouble with their adjustments in Argentina," Kim said in an interview clip shared by the Korea Football Association. "The players are in good form, and I will make sure they will be in top physical condition on match days."
South Korea will play in Group F, one of six groups of four, against France, Honduras and Gambia. The top two teams from each group, along with the four best third-place teams, will reach the round of 16.
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).
South Korea scrambled to set up camp in Brazil after the tournament moved from Indonesia to Argentina in mid-April, following the former's continued protests of Israel's participation.
Kim tried to help his players get acclimated to the South American weather conditions this time of year and adjust to the time difference quickly.
"The players were a bit rusty coming into camp, and so we played a couple of practice matches to address their conditioning issues," Kim said. "I hope our supporters can cheer on our team competing far away from home. We will try to reward them with good matches."
South Korea were the runners-up to Ukraine at the previous U-20 World Cup in 2019. The 2021 tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because of the age restriction in this competition, players born in the year 2001 lost their one opportunity to play at the U-20 World Cup two years ago. On this year's team, FC Seoul forward Kang Sung-jin, a 2003 birth, said he wants to make the most of his chance this time.
"You can only play this tournament once, and I've long dreamed about competing here," Kang said. "I am really motivated for this. I am going to play as hard as I can, and try to have fun along the way."