S. Korea to face Japan in men’s football friendly on March 25

March 10, 2021

 Rivals South Korea and Japan will square off in a men’s football friendly match on March 25.

The Korea Football Association (KFA) announced Wednesday that the two countries have agreed to face off at Nissan Stadium in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, on the last Thursday of March. The kickoff time will be determined later.

In this file photo from Dec. 18, 2019, South Korean players (in red) celebrate their 1-0 victory over Japan in the final of the East Asian Football Federation (EAFF) E-1 Football Championship at the Busan Asiad Main Stadium in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)
In this file photo from Dec. 18, 2019, South Korea (in red tops) and Japan are in action in the final of the East Asian Football Federation (EAFF) E-1 Football Championship at Busan Asiad Main Stadium in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)
In this file photo from Dec. 18, 2019, South Korean players celebrate winning the East Asian Football Federation (EAFF) E-1 Football Championship at Busan Asiad Main Stadium in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)
This image provided by the Korea Football Association on March 26, 2020, shows its emblem. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

In this file photo from Dec. 18, 2019, South Korean players (in red) celebrate their 1-0 victory over Japan in the final of the East Asian Football Federation (EAFF) E-1 Football Championship at the Busan Asiad Main Stadium in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)

This will be the first meeting between the archrivals since December 2019, when they clashed in the final of the East Asian Football Federation (EAFF) E-1 Football Championship in the southeastern Korean city of Busan.

They had also met at the EAFF tournament in 2013, 2015 and 2017. Their last match in a non-tournament setting came in August 2011 in Sapporo, where the home team Japan blanked South Korea 3-0.

Any match between the two nations is a must-see event. They have played each other 79 times, and South Korea have a substantial edge with 42 wins, 23 draws and 14 losses.

South Korea and Japan have played each other twice at Nissan Stadium. Japan won the first meeting 2-1 in March 1998, and they played to a scoreless draw in December 2003.

The upcoming match falls in the next FIFA international match window of March 22-30. Due to effects of the coronavirus pandemic, South Korea, much like many other countries, have barely played any matches over the past year or so. All of their scheduled World Cup qualifying matches in 2020 were wiped out, and it wasn’t until November that they played their first international friendlies of the year.

With World Cup qualifiers scheduled for March having been pushed to June, South Korea needed to stay sharp by playing matches in the March FIFA window, said KFA’s secretary general, Chun Han-jin.

“We have four World Cup qualifiers coming up in June, and the next phase of the qualification will begin in the second half of the year,” Chun said. “Despite challenges posed by COVID-19, we decided to take advantage of this precious opportunity.”

Japan had first approached South Korea about a friendly match on their home soil, and the two had been in talks over the past week or so.

Chun said the KFA has reached an agreement with the government that the national team players and coaches traveling from South Korea will be exempt from mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arriving back home. Instead, they will enter one-week cohort isolation in a biosecure bubble at the National Football Center in Paju, north of Seoul, and will rejoin their respective clubs afterward.

The next hurdle for the KFA is to get K League clubs to agree to release their players.

Typically, pro clubs are obligated to release players for FIFA-sanctioned international matches. However, FIFA has tweaked rules during the pandemic, so that if there is mandatory quarantine of at least five days in the country of the player’s club, then the club doesn’t have to make the player available.

The K League season kicked off in late February, and the league has scheduled an international break from March 22 to April 1.

Chun said the KFA has also formally asked overseas clubs to release their South Korean players for the match.

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