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Soccer - South Korea clash no friendly, says Australia coach

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SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia coach Graham Arnold said Saturday’s clash with South Korea in Brisbane will be anything but a “friendly” international with the Asian Cup only a couple of months away.

The two nations met twice at the last version of the continental championship, South Korea winning 1-0 in the group phase in Brisbane and hosts Australia getting revenge with a 2-1 extra time win in the final.

Saturday’s match at Lang Park forms the final phase of Australia’s preparations for their title defence in the United Arab Emirates from Jan 5 to Feb 1 and Arnold said only one result would do as far as he was concerned.

“We know the Asian Cup is just around the corner, in my view, there is no friendly games, it’s all about winning,” he told reporters in Brisbane on Friday.

“It’s all about building that belief and confidence in everything we’re practising.”

Arnold, who took over from Bert van Marwijk after the 2018 World Cup and started his reign with a 4-0 win over Kuwait last month, has a clear idea of the virtues he wants his team to display.

“You will see… a free-flowing game, a lot of energy, a lot of movement off the ball, a lot of movement with the ball,” he added.

“Our strength is our commitment, our discipline and also our pace and individual quality. When you look at our front line, they score goals every week where ever they are.

“I’m extremely excited to sit back and enjoy watching this great team.”

The team will be without Tim Cahill, who will sign off Wayne Rooney-style in a friendly against Lebanon in Sydney next Tuesday, with Jamie Maclaren expected to lead the line.

South Korea are without forward Son Heung-min, midfielder Ki Sung-yueng and defender Jang Hyun-soo, who was handed a lifetime ban from the national team for falsifying records relating to his military service exemption.

Son was left out of the squad after an agreement with his English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur that allowed him to play in South Korea’s gold medal-winning Asian Games side earlier this year.

Centre half Kim Young-gwon will captain the side in Son’s absence as South Korea look to extend their four-match unbeaten run under Portuguese coach Paulo Bento, a streak that includes a 2-1 win over Uruguay.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by John O’Brien)

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