Nat’l football team returns home from Australia friendlies

November 21, 2018

INCHEON, Nov. 21 (Yonhap) — The South Korean national football team returned home Wednesday after playing two friendly matches in Australia.

The Taeguk Warriors, led by head coach Paulo Bento, arrived at Incheon International Airport after collecting one win and one draw in their Australia trip. South Korea played to a 1-1 draw with Australia and beat Uzbekistan 4-0.

Among the 23 players who were called up for the November friendlies, 13 K League-based players and two Japan-based players — Hwang Ui-jo of Gamba Osaka and Kim Seung-gyu of Vissel Kobe, received a warm welcome by fans at the airport. The Korea Football Association (KFA) said the players who are with European clubs took different flights from Brisbane, Australia.

South Korea national football team players and coaches arrive at Incheon International Airport in Incheon on Nov. 21, 2018. (Yonhap)
South Korea national football team players and coaches arrive at Incheon International Airport in Incheon on Nov. 21, 2018. (Yonhap)

South Korea national football team players and coaches arrive at Incheon International Airport in Incheon on Nov. 21, 2018. (Yonhap)

The two friendly matches in Australia were tuneups for the 2019 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates that kicks off on Jan. 5. They were also the first two away matches for South Korea since Bento took over the team in August.

“Everything is going well as we planned,” Bento told reporters at the airport. “But we’ll keep trying to develop our football.”

For the November friendlies, Bento tested new faces and players who didn’t get much playing time in their previous matches at home. South Korea’s core players like Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min, Newcastle United anchorman Ki Sung-yueng and Holstein Kiel midfielder Lee Jae-sung were not called up for the friendlies in Australia.

Those who played in the two friendly matches said they’ve worked hard to make their case for the final Asian Cup roster.

“I think I’ve shown what I can do, but I know I have to work harder,” said midfielder Hwang In-beom, who started in both the Australia and Uzbekistan friendlies. “My goal is to play at the Asian Cup, and if I can make the final roster, I will do my best to help my team to victory.”

With their results on the Australian trip, South Korea now have three wins and three draws under Bento.

The KFA said it is planning an early call-up of national players to better prepare for the Asian Cup. The national team is scheduled to depart for the UAE on Dec. 22.

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