Kim Eun-Joong will look to reach a second consecutive FIFA Under-20 World Cup final.
South Korea, led by head coach Kim Eun-jung, will face Italy in the semifinals of the FIFA U20 World Cup Argentina 2023 at 6 a.m. ET on June 9 at La Plata Stadium in La Plata, Argentina.
Unheralded before the tournament, Kim Eun Joong-ho’s side went unbeaten (3 wins, 2 draws) in five matches, starting with a 2-1 win over France in the first round of group play and ending with a 1-0 win over Nigeria in the quarterfinals, to reach the last four. It’s their second consecutive semifinal appearance, following the 2019 tournament in Poland, where they finished as runners-up.
The odds are stacked against them. Due to the tournament schedule, South Korea had one less day of rest as they played their quarterfinals a day later than Italy. Add to that the fact that the quarterfinal against Nigeria was a 120-minute grueling match that went into extra time, and the physical demands are high.
“The players have never played so many games in such a short period of time,” said Kim Eun-joong, “and it’s not easy to recover,” he said.
Another challenge is the poor condition of the pitch. It is easier to play long kicks than short passes when the ground is not in good condition, which can favor teams with better physical condition. That’s why a strong Italy could be too much for South Korea.
Overseas bookmakers are also giving Italy a good chance of winning.
It’s not an easy situation, but the ball is round and the outcome is unpredictable. Especially since this tournament features young players under the age of 20, the smallest variables can change the outcome.
South Korea certainly has the weapons to upset the odds. They are unbeaten in the tournament, entertaining with sharp counterattacks and promising set pieces.
South Korea had fun in their first group game against France, winning 2-1 thanks to a counter-attacking tactic. They continued to prioritize defense and then attack with quick and promising counterattacks. They have also been scoring goals when needed from set pieces utilizing the accurate right foot of Lee Seung-won (Gangwon).
Coach Kim Eun-joong plans to make no changes against Italy. “It’s not easy to make new changes because the time is short,” Kim said before the game, adding, “We want to do what our players have been doing well.” 스포츠토토
In the final training session, the team focused on the correct transition of the ball using the flanks to perfect their counterattacks.
Just as South Korea will be looking to reach their second consecutive final, Italy will be looking to set a new record at the tournament. The four-time FIFA World Cup champions have never reached the final of the U20 World Cup, let alone won it. A win against South Korea would be the first final in the history of Italian soccer.
“We are happy to be in the semifinals, but we will do our best in the remaining matches,” said Italy coach Carmine Nunziata.