Kim Eun-jung’s U-20 team will take on Honduras at the Mendoza Stadium in Mendoza, Argentina, on June 26 at 6 a.m. ET in their second Group F match of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023. Kim Eun-Joong-ho scored the winner in South Korea’s 2-1 upset win over France in the first leg. South Korea is tied for first place in Group F with Gambia, who beat Honduras 2-1.
All South Korea needs to do is beat Honduras in the second round, and they’re virtually guaranteed a spot in the round of 16. If South Korea beats Honduras and the Gambia fails to beat France, they will clinch at least the second spot. They will advance to the Round of 16 early, regardless of the outcome of the remaining three games against the Gambia. Even in the worst-case scenario of falling to third place in the group, South Korea could still qualify for the round of 16 as a ‘wild card’ with two wins. The tournament will feature 24 teams divided into six groups of four, with the round of 16 consisting of the 12 best-placed teams in each group and the four best-performing teams in the third place group.
Kim Eun-jong-ho is determined to win against Honduras. The Gambia, the ‘Africa’s foot soldiers’, proved to be a formidable opponent in the first round. As has been the case throughout the history of the age-group competition, African teams have been under pressure. The Gambia showed off their physicality and technical prowess in Game 1. Kim Eun-Joong-ho will need to take care of Honduras to avoid a tricky third game against the Gambia.
Honduras had been touted as Kim’s number one prior to the tournament. North and Central American teams have always been considered challenging opponents. South Korea has gone 4-2-1 against North and Central American teams at the U-20 World Cup. Against Honduras, they are 8-1-1, including all age groups. Honduras comes into the tournament having reached the quarterfinals of the North American U-20 Championship last year.
Honduras uses a 4-3-3 formation and plays a center-oriented attack. In the first game, they used a Kim Eun-ho-like strategy of striking on the counterattack. They weren’t very impressive, but they’re not a team to ignore. While the defense was shaky against the Gambia’s individual flair, the offense created quite a few threats on every outing. The ace was Marco Acheituno, who was second on the team with six goals. Playing on the left side of the back three, he also scored the equalizer against the Gambia. Although he plays on the left wing, he also creates chances through the center. He’s a player the Taeguk Warriors will need to contain.
Honduras, who are at the bottom of the table, will likely play a cautious game against South Korea. They will look to defend and then attack quickly. Kim Eun-jong-ho, who enjoyed the ‘defend first, counterattack later’ strategy against France, will need to turn 180 degrees and play a more proactive game. As the goals came when they needed them and made the game easy, the key will be how to break through the opponent’s tight defense. If they don’t score when they push, they may struggle to counterattack.
Kim is holding onto the card of ‘ace’ Bae Joon-ho (Daejeon Hana Citizen). Bae didn’t play against France due to a sudden muscle problem. He’s still not 100%, but he’s ready to go against Honduras. Bae Jun-ho is Kim Eun-jong-ho’s best technician. He has the ability to get into tight spaces. Kim has a plan to shake up the Honduran defense with Bae Jun-ho. With Bae Joon-ho on board, the pace of Kim Yong-hak (Portimonense) and Kang Sung-jin (FC Seoul) could be multiplied. 안전놀이터
There are no guarantees. “It won’t be easy against Honduras. We will prepare thoroughly and play a good game,” said Kim. ‘Core center back’ Kim Ji-soo (Seongnam FC) said, “We won’t get carried away just because we won one game against France. We will prepare with the same mindset as the first time so that we can win.” Goalkeeper Kim Jun-hong (Gimcheon Commerce) said, “If we win against Honduras, we have a very high chance of reaching the round of 16. We will do our best to recover and win.”