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S. Korea coach wary of Italian attack ahead of U-20 World Cup semifinals

June 8, 2023 - 09:26 By Yonhap
South Korea head coach Kim Eun-jung speaks at a press conference at La Plata Stadium in La Plata, Argentina, on June 7, the eve of the semifinal match against Italy at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. (Yonhap)

In preparing for the semifinal showdown against Italy at the ongoing FIFA U-20 World Cup, South Korea head coach Kim Eun-jung has been focusing on getting his team ready to handle the Europeans' offensive prowess.

"Italy's attackers are so great and we've been keying in on that aspect," Kim said at the official prematch press conference Wednesday at La Plata Stadium in La Plata, eastern Argentina. The same venue will host the semifinal match between South Korea and Italy at 6 p.m. Thursday local time, or 6 a.m. Friday in Seoul.

"All teams in the semifinals are all playing at a high level, and we'll prepare for tomorrow's match the best we can," Kim added.

Italy have netted 11 goals in five matches so far in the tournament, the most among the four remaining teams. Midfielder Cesare Casadei leads his team and the entire competition with six goals. They are considered especially dangerous on set pieces.

"Italy are a well-prepared team and I think we have to do everything we can to be ready against a powerful opponent like that," Kim said. "Since we don't have much time, it's difficult to bring about major changes. We'll try to stick to things that our players have done well so far."

Italy played their quarterfinal match on Saturday, one day before South Korea did, and have thus had one extra day of rest. South Korea needed extra time to knock off Nigeria 1-0 in the quarters, while Italy cruised to a 3-1 win over Colombia.

Kim chose to look on the brighter side, however, noting that his team only had two days off between the round of 16 and the quarterfinals, and will now have three days of break before the semifinals.

"We've had more time to recover than we did before the quarterfinals," Kim said. "I think we should be in better physical condition for tomorrow than in the quarters."

South Korea have already exceeded expectations to advance this deep into the tournament. Their tournament began with a stunning 2-1 victory over France in the group stage. Consecutive draws against Honduras and Gambia were enough to send South Korea into the knockouts. They then defeated Ecuador and Nigeria in succession for their second consecutive trip to the final four.

South Korea finished as the runners-up to Ukraine in 2019. The 2021 tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Yonhap)