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S. Korea coach takes trip delay in stride ahead of U-20 World Cup knockouts

May 31, 2023 - 11:11 By Yonhap
South Korea head coach Kim Eun-jung directs his players against Gambia during a Group F match at the FIFA U-20 World Cup at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas in Mendoza, Argentina, last Sunday (FIFA)

South Korea head coach Kim Eun-jung wants to ensure a travel delay in Argentina won't affect his team's upcoming knockout match at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

South Korea qualified for the last 16 at the tournament after playing all three group matches in Mendoza, western Argentina, over the past week. Their first knockout match is against Ecuador in Santiago del Estero in the northern part of the host country at 6 p.m. Thursday, or 6 a.m. Friday in Seoul.

Kim's team had been scheduled to travel to Santiago del Estero at 3 p.m. Monday on a chartered plane provided by FIFA. However, the trip was pushed back to 10 a.m. Tuesday, due to what the Korea Football Association said were issues with charter flights. The KFA said Gambia and Italy, among other knockout-bound teams, had also experienced delays.

Kim said Tuesday he will prepare his players so that the unexpected delay won't have any impact on their match.

"We were going to take Monday off anyway. So it was just a difference of having that day off here or in Mendoza," Kim said in Santiago del Estero, in a video clip released by the KFA. "It would have been better if we'd enjoyed the time off here. The guys are a bit more fatigued after traveling today. But we will try to help them recover in time and get them ready to go on the day of the match."

Kim said he was pleased with the conditions of the training facility in Santiago del Estero, compared with the one in Mendoza.

"It's several degrees warmer here than there," the coach said. "As far as avoiding injuries and keeping the players healthy, I think we're in a better spot."

South Korea will be playing in the knockout stage for the third consecutive U-20 World Cup, after reaching the round of 16 in 2017 and finishing as the runners-up to Ukraine in 2019. The 2021 tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If South Korea beat Ecuador, they will stay in Santiago del Estero for the quarterfinal match against either Argentina or Nigeria at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, or 2:30 a.m. Monday (Yonhap)