S. Korea host Canada to fine-tune ahead of 2018 World Cup qualifier

November 9, 2016

SEOUL, Nov. 9 (Yonhap) — South Korea will aim to fine-tune their preparations for a World Cup qualifier when they host Canada this week.

South Korea, No. 44 in the latest FIFA rankings, will face No. 110 Canada at Cheonan Baekseok Stadium in Cheonan, some 90 kilometers south of Seoul, in a friendly match on Friday.

This match serves as a tune-up for South Korea’s World Cup qualifier against Uzbekistan in Seoul on Tuesday. The two countries are in Group A of the final Asian qualifying round for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, along with Iran, Syria, Qatar and China.

South Korea are currently third in the group with seven points, two points behind No. 2 Uzbekistan. Iran are the group leaders with 10 points. Only the top two teams in the six-nation group will earn automatic berths in the World Cup in Russia, while the third seed needs to go through the playoffs.

South Korea head coach Uli Stielike said his side needs a confidence boost before taking on Uzbekistan. The Taeguk Warriors are coming off a 1-0 loss to Iran in Tehran last month, their first defeat in the World Cup qualifying stage.

Stielike said he will test his players — especially those in full back and striker positions — when they meet Canada. The German will cut two players from his 25-man squad after the friendly.

Some familiar faces have returned to the national team after a long absence, but they need to impress Stielike in the friendly to earn starting spots in next week’s Uzbekistan clash.

Borussia Dortmund left back Park Joo-ho, who has been struggling to get playing time with his German club, is with the national team for the first time since March. The 29-year-old is up against Yun Suk-young, who is with Danish side Brondby.

Yoon, 26, also joined the team after missing out on four previous World Cup qualifiers.

For the right back position, two Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors defenders in the top flight K League Classic will compete. Choi Chul-soon will have his first international duty since 2013, and he will likely share playing time with veteran teammate Kim Chang-soo.

Ulsan Hyundai striker Lee Jeong-hyeop, who last donned the national team jersey in a March friendly against Thailand, will vie for the target man role with FC Red Bull Salzburg forward Hwang Hee-chan, who is the youngest player on the squad at age 20.

Key players like Tottenham Hotspur attacker Son Heung-min, Swansea City midfielder Ki Sung-yueng and Crystal Palace winger Lee Chung-yong will try to recover their form after a long flight from Europe.

South Korean national football team players conduct warm up exercises during their training session at Seoul World Cup Stadium on Nov. 8, 2016.

South Korean national football team players conduct warm up exercises during their training session at Seoul World Cup Stadium on Nov. 8, 2016.

The friendly will be the first time that South Korea will go head-to-head against Canada at home. The two nations last met in February 2002 at the Gold Cup in the United States, where South Korea lost 2-1 in the third-place match.

Canada, overall, have a superior head-to-head record against South Korea with two wins, one draw and one loss.

Canada, led by Michael Findlay, called up 18 players from professional clubs in 10 countries to face South Korea.

Among them are Cardiff City midfielder David Junior Hoilett, who has previously played with Yun and now-retired Park Ji-sung back when they were at Queens Park Rangers. Marcel de Jong, who has played 48 matches for Canada, will reunite with FC Augsburg duo Koo Ja-cheol and Ji Dong-won. The 30-year-old full back was with the German Bundesliga club from 2010 to 2015.

Leading the attack will be Marcus Haber, who scored his first goal for Scottish club Dundee on Saturday against Motherwell, and Cyle Larin, who won the Major League Soccer Rookie of the Year Award in 2015. Larin, 21, has scored 31 goals in his past two seasons with Orlando City.

Canada have an all-time record of 13 wins, three draws and 14 losses in 27 matches against Asian countries. In their most recent match against an Asian team, Canada beat Uzbekistan 2-1 on June 7 in Austria, with David Edgar scoring both goals.

Edgar, the 29-year-old defender who had stints with English clubs Newcastle United and Burnley, is also included in the Canadian squad.