Four football teams looking to enjoy U-20 World Cup test event

Vivian Kang, March 24, 2017, 10:28 a.m.

The four participants in a U-20 World Cup prep tournament in South Korea said Friday they'll try to enjoy football and gain experience ahead of the FIFA competition.

With the FIFA U-20 World Cup less than two months away, South Korea have invited Honduras, Zambia and Ecuador for the tournament as a warm-up for players under 20. All four teams are participants of the U-20 World Cup that will be staged from May 20 to June 11 in six South Korean cities: Cheonan, Daejeon, Incheon, Jeju, Jeonju and Suwon.

South Korea will open the four-team tournament against Honduras in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on Saturday, and will take on Zambia two days later in Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province. The U-20 team will wrap up the test event for the U-20 World Cup with Ecuador in Seogwipo on Jeju Island next Thursday.

The head coaches from the four teams said the tournament will be a good stage to test their players and gain experience before entering the U-20 World Cup.

South Korean boss Shin Tae-yong said that he wants to build up the team as one unit through the tournament. Shin, who previously led South Korea at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympic Games, called up 26 players for the tournament and will finalize the 21-man final squad for the World Cup later.

"We're not a perfect team yet," Shin said. "I want to check our competitiveness against these good teams. I will also ask players to enjoy football and show their creativity."

Shin's side recently suffered a 4-0 defeat to South Korean pro football club Incheon United in a friendly match. But he will ask the players to forget about the result and start fresh at the upcoming tournament.

"I told the players that they should believe in themselves," he said. "We can't just think of this tournament as a test because regardless of the result, we need to boost the morale of the players."

Zambia's head coach Beston Chambeshi said his side will enjoy the tournament. Zambia topped the African qualification with five straight victories to reach the World Cup.

"We're happy to be invited to this tournament," he said. "We will enjoy the game and we're ready for this tournament with good teams here."

Carlos Tabora, who leads Honduras, said the tournament will provide a good learning experience for his players about South Korean weather and environment. Honduras finished runners-up in their regional qualification for the World Cup behind the United States.

"This is an important tournament ahead of the World Cup," he said. "Each team here has its own colors and I hope our players gain experience through this tournament." 

Ecuador's Jose Rodriguez said his team will try to learn many things from this tournament and make their 14-hour travel here worth it. Ecuador took second place behind Uruguay in the South American qualification.

"We decided to come here to know about South Korean culture and environment," he said. "We will also try to gain experience before we come here again for the World Cup."

At the U-20 World Cup, South Korea are placed in Group A with six-time World Cup winners Argentina, European giants England and African side Guinea. Zambia are paired with Portugal, Costa Rica and Iran in Group B, while Honduras are in Group E along with France, New Zealand and Vietnam. Ecuador will meet the United States, Senegal and Saudi Arabia in Group F.

The U-20 World Cup features 24 teams that are divided into six groups of four. The top two teams from each group will advance to the knockout round, along with four third-place teams.

The coaches said they agreed to share information about their group opponents. For instance, Ecuador decided to give a video of their match against Argentina to South Korea. In the South American qualifying round, they beat Argentina 3-0.

"There's not really advice, but we gave the video of the match between Ecuador and Argentina," said Rodriguez. "South American football is a little rough, so I think South Korea should be aware of that and they just need to prepare hard."

South Korea's Shin said his players will also have valuable learning experience when they face Zambia, a good opponent resembling Guinea.

"Their unique speed and style will give us good lesson," he said. "We're not in a good position to play matches against African teams frequently. But we will first focus on our opening match against Honduras."

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