S. Korea coach not making excuses despite little training time for World Cup qualifier
SEOUL-- In their preparation for a World Cup qualifying match against Iraq this week, South Korea will only have two training sessions with the whole squad. But head coach Paulo Bento isn't one to make excuses, and he wants his players to refrain from doing that, too.
Bento opened training camp Monday at the National Football Center (NFC) in Paju, north of Seoul, but four Europe-based players, including Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur, only checked into the NFC Tuesday afternoon because of their weekend club duties.
The first practice for the entire team took place earlier Wednesday. South Korea will face Iraq at 8 p.m. Thursday at Seoul World Cup Stadium, and Bento plans to run another practice Thursday morning.
Compare that to Iraq's extensive training camp. Dick Advocaat's team began practicing Aug. 9 in Spain and later traveled to Turkey to continue preparing.
In his prematch press conference Wednesday, Bento conceded it could be an advantage for his opponent, but it shouldn't change South Korea's approach.
"We should prepare for our games with the conditions we have," Bento said in an online interview from the NFC. "We know that it's not easy to prepare for a game when some players arrive two days before the game. But it's the context we have, and we have to adapt ourselves to this kind of context. It can't be an excuse for us.
"We knew from the beginning what kind of conditions we would have. So we need to arrange the best solutions for our players for each game. And nothing else," Bento continued. "The days we have to prepare for the games, we should take advantage of those days. I am confident about what we can do in this qualifier. I trust in our players."
This will be the first Group A match for both countries in the third round of the Asian qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. There are two groups of six, and the top two teams from each group will grab spots in the quadrennial tournament.
The two No. 3 seeds will collide in a playoff match, and the winner will move on to the last-chance intercontinental playoffs.
South Korea have played in every World Cup since 1986.
Whereas Bento has been in charge of South Korea for three years, Iraq went through a coaching change only a month ago, with Dick Advocaat replacing Srecko Katanec. South Korea will be the first opponent for Advocaat, who coached South Korea at the 2006 World Cup.
Bento noted that Iraq have played in different tactical systems over the years, and it'll be difficult to predict what further changes Advocaat's appointment will bring.
"We know that they use a lot of direct game, with a high level of aggressiveness to conquer the second ball," Bento said. "It's a team that, defensively, is a strong team with a high level of intensity. We should be able to face a team with these characteristics playing our style and trying to have a high level of intensity."
Source: Yonhap News Agency