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Klinsmann’s team, looking to win its first Asian Cup trophy in 64 years, plays its final mock test. The opponent is “dark horse” Iraq. South Korea national soccer team coach Jürgen Klinsmann benched key players such as Son Heung-min (Tottenham), Kim Min-jae (Bayern Munich), and Lee Kang-in (Paris Saint-Germain). The team’s focus was on improving their physical fitness and conditioning.

Klinsmann’s squad will next face Iraq in an A-match trial at New York University Stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE) on June 6 at 10 p.m. ET. It is the final warm-up match for the 2023 Asian Cup in Qatar. South Korea is ranked 23rd by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), while Iraq is ranked 63rd by FIFA. South Korea leads the head-to-head series with 8 wins, 12 draws and 2 losses.

However, Son Heung-min, Kim Min-jae and Lee Kang-in will start the match from the bench. Forwards Hwang Hee-chan (Wolverhampton) and Cho Kyu-sung (Mitwillan) were also left out of the starting lineup.

Klinsmann has opted for a 4-1-4-1 formation. In place of the national team seniors, Oh Hyun-kyu, who plays for Scottish giants Celtic, will play up top. Hwang In-beom (Tsubena Zvezda) and Hong Hyun-seok (KAA Hent) support the attack from the second line. Jung Woo-young (Stuttgart) and Lee Jae-sung (Mainz) are on the flanks. Defensive midfielder Park Yong-woo (Al Ain) protects the back four.

The back line is composed of Lee Ki-je (Suwon Samsung), Kim Young-kwon, Jung Seung-hyun, and Seol Young-woo (Ulsan HD) from left to right. In goal, Kim Seung-kyu (Al-Shabab) is the main goalkeeper.

The team departed the country on the 2nd of this month and headed to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), to prepare for the Asian Cup. K League players, including “monster defender” Kim Min-jae, who won the 2023 Korea Football Association (KFA) Player of the Year award, arrived in Abu Dhabi first. Overseas league players, including “Captain” Son Heung-min, joined the main squad later.

The ‘golden boy’ was a last-minute addition to the squad after leading Paris Saint-Germain to the Super Cup. The national team was complete.

South Korea’s goal at the Asian Cup is to win it all. Despite being considered an Asian powerhouse, South Korea hasn’t won the Asian Cup in a long time. The last time they won was in 1956 and 1960. This tournament will be their first in 64 years.

At the tournament, South Korea will compete in Group E against Bahrain (86th), Jordan (87th), and Malaysia (130th). Korea will open the tournament against Bahrain on Nov. 15, followed by Jordan on Nov. 20 and Malaysia on Nov. 25.

The Asian Cup features 24 nations, divided into six groups. The 12 first- and second-place teams from each group will then advance to the round of 16. The remaining four spots will be filled by the top four finishers from each group. After Iraq, the team will travel to Qatar for the “showdown” on Oct. 10.

“We head to Qatar with a lot of energy and a lot of faith,” Klinsmann said at the departure ceremony. “We’re going to go there with a lot of energy and a lot of belief, and we’re going to do it for our people and for the people who are here with us, and we’re going to lift the trophy after 64 years. We’ll see you in six weeks with a good showing and a good result.”


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