Egypt coach hopes friendly vs. S. Korea will strengthen bilateral ties

SEOUL-- For Egypt head coach Ehab Galal, the upcoming football friendly match against South Korea will be more than just a game. It will be an opportunity for the two countries to strengthen their relations.

"I think maintaining and bolstering great ties between our two countries is more important than the match itself," Galal said through an interpreter at an online press conference Monday, the eve of the friendly between the two sides at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Seoul. "I hope the two teams will play a strong match befitting our status as great nations."

Galal also flashed a finger heart during the presser and said it was for the South Korean team and their fans.

Galal has brought a decimated squad to Seoul. By his estimate, Galal will be without "10 or 11 players," and none bigger than Mohamed Salah, the Liverpool star who shared the Premier League Golden Boot with the South Korean captain Son Heung-min this past season.

Egypt had also played two matches last week during the 2023 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying, beating Guinea 1-0 at home on June 5 but losing to Ethiopia 2-0 four days later in Malawi. Galal said the team took an arduous journey to South Korea but he couldn't pass up the opportunity to face "an important team," like South Korea.

"We took the opportunity to come all the way to Korea after our AFCON qualifiers, because we were going to face a great team that's preparing for the World Cup," Galal said. "We felt it was worth the trouble to make the trip. Even though we'll be without several players, we still have some important players with us here. I hope both countries will have a great experience playing this match."

This will be the fourth and final friendly for South Korea in their preparation for the World Cup. South Korea lost to Brazil 5-1 on June 2 before beating Chile 2-0 on June 6. They then played Paraguay to a 2-2 draw last Friday.

Galal said he'd watched all three games but added he had long known of South Korea's qualities.

"Even in the loss to Brazil, South Korea put on a good performance. I think they're a very organized team, and they're well prepared for the World Cup," Galal said. "I hope they produce good results at the World Cup, even though matches there will be difficult."

Galal said one notable strength of the South Korean team is how seriously the players approach each game. It's something Galal wants his players to emulate.

"We've worked hard for this match, and we will take the game seriously," Galal said. "They have some outstanding players on offense, especially Son Heung-min."

Midfielder Amr El Solia, who will wear the captain's armband in Salah's absence, also singled out Son as the one South Korean player he's most familiar with.

"I know most of the players for South Korea, and I think they're all great players," he said. "I hope fans will enjoy the match tomorrow."

Source: Yonhap News Agency