November 19, 2013 10:55
Korea will play its last international game of the year on Tuesday night (Korean time), a friendly match against world No. 19 Russia at Zabeel Stadium in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The team has been on a decent run lately, having beaten 38th-ranked Mali and seventh-ranked Switzerland in its last two matches. Both games were tune-ups as it tries to find its stride ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
However, the key difference is that all of these games were played before hugely supportive home crowds. As the playing environment will be much less Korea-friendly in South America next year, tonight's match in the UAE is seen as a crucial stepping stone.
The game will kick off at around 6 p.m. (local time), when the temperature in Dubai falls to a bearable 25 degrees Celsius. The players will also have to deal with seasonal winds that whip sand into the air.
"The sand that is blowing around will create difficulties for players on the field. You can feel it in your mouth as soon as you step outside, and the visibility is so low that the other side of the stadium is just a blur," said KBS commentator Lee Yong-soo.
"It will be a good opportunity for the players to prepare for the World Cup as they learn how to overcome adverse conditions," he added.
Moreover, Russia will be a tough opponent following its recent generational shift. It topped its group in the European qualifiers to book its berth at the World Cup for the first time in 12 years and will have most of its best players available for tonight's game.
Although Aleksandr Kerzhakov of Zenit Saint Petersburg had to return home due to an unexpected injury on Saturday, most other starting members will play. Key threats for Korea include Aleksandr Kokorin of Dynamo Moscow and Roman Shirokov of Zenit Saint Petersburg.
Russia arrived in Dubai earlier and played Serbia in a friendly at the same stadium last Friday. The game ended in a 1-1 draw.
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