The 2019 Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) U-20 World Cup in Poland was a monumental tournament for South Korean soccer. Led by Lee Kang-in (Mallorca), South Korea defied all odds to reach the final and finish as runners-up.

Now, four years later, the Korean soccer team is back in Argentina to do it again. Now, they are one win away from making it to their second consecutive final.

The South Korean U-20 football team, led by head coach Kim Eun-joong, will face Italy in the quarterfinals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023 at 6 a.m. on Sept. 9 at La Plata Stadium in La Plata, Argentina.

South Korea reached the quarterfinals with a dominant performance, going undefeated from the group stage through the quarterfinals. They are the only unbeaten team in the quarterfinals. Their opponents in the final are Italy, a European powerhouse that is particularly strong at this age group. They have reached the quarterfinals of three consecutive U-20 World Cups.

When we think of Italian soccer, we usually think of strong defensive soccer represented by the ‘rainbow defense’, but the consensus is that this is not the style at this age group. Kim Dae-gil, a commentator for the Kyunghyang Shinmun, said, “I think the word ‘defensive’ is more appropriate for the Italian A team. In this tournament, Italy is very active in the game 메이저놀이터.”

Italy has scored 11 goals and conceded six in the tournament, showing a stable balance in the offense. Cesare Cassaday, the 6-foot-2 midfielder who has been responsible for six of the 11 goals, is the number one target.

There are spots to exploit. Italy’s biggest weakness is on the flanks. If you look at the goals Italy has conceded in this tournament, most of them have come from crosses from the flanks. Italy’s only losses of the tournament – the second leg against Nigeria, the first leg against Brazil in a 3-2 thriller, and the round of 16 against England in a 2-1 win – were all conceded because they couldn’t contain the flanks. This is due to Italy’s relatively slow transition into the offense compared to other teams.

South Korea, who have a number of pacey secondary attackers like Kang Sung-jin (Seoul) and Kim Yong-hak (Portimonense), will be able to exploit this.

Despite exploiting their weaknesses, Korea’s cohesion shouldn’t falter, especially as the tournament draws to a close and players’ stamina is at its limit, and concentration will be the difference between victory and defeat. “Nigeria (in the quarterfinals) was a very good team, but Korea played really well,” says Kim Dae-gil. The lesson from that game is that the team that takes care of business wins in the end,” he said, adding, “In this tournament, the phrase ‘stingy defense’ is more fitting for Korea (than Italy). We need to keep doing what we’ve been doing, playing a solid defense, waiting for them to get tired like a hyena, and then attacking with quick counterattacks and set pieces.”

Again in 2019… We’re in the driver’s seat

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