Plot thickens as decision looms on final Olympic football roster

유지호 / 2021-06-15 22:48:45
  • facebookfacebook
  • twittertwitter
  • kakaokakao
  • pinterestpinterest
  • navernaver
  • bandband
  • -
  • +
  • print
Olympic football-roster
▲ Lee Dong-jun (L) of the South Korean men's Olympic football team scores against Ghana during a friendly match at Jeju World Cup Stadium in Seogwipo, Jeju Island, on June 15, 2021. (Yonhap)

▲ Jeong Woo-yeong (R) of the South Korean men's Olympic football team high-fives teammate Cho Young-wook after scoring a goal against Ghana during a friendly match at Jeju World Cup Stadium in Seogwipo, Jeju Island, on June 15, 2021. (Yonhap)

▲ Lee Kang-in (L) of the South Korean men's Olympic football team falls down during a friendly match against Ghana at Jeju World Cup Stadium in Seogwipo, Jeju Island, on June 15, 2021. (Yonhap)

▲ Paik Seung-ho (C) of the South Korean men's Olympic football team takes a shot against Ghana during a friendly match at Jeju World Cup Stadium in Seogwipo, Jeju Island, on June 15, 2021. (Yonhap)

▲ Kim Hak-bum (R), head coach of the South Korean men's Olympic football team, watches his team in a friendly match against Ghana from the press row at Jeju World Cup Stadium in Seogwipo, Jeju Island, on June 15, 2021. (Yonhap)

Olympic football-roster

Plot thickens as decision looms on final Olympic football roster

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, June 15 (Yonhap) -- Now comes the hard part.

In two friendly matches against Ghana held in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics, Kim Hak-bum, head coach of the South Korean men's Olympic football team, saw 29 players in action. South Korea prevailed in both matches -- by 3-1 last Saturday and then 2-1 on Tuesday -- but the scores probably didn't matter to the players as much as impressions they were trying to make on the coach.

Kim is expected to announce his 18-man roster for Tokyo on June 30, though the Korea Football Association (KFA) said Tuesday that the schedule could change.

Either way, difficult decisions are coming. Kim will have his first roster cuts next Tuesday, when he is scheduled to open a new training camp with fewer players.

"The important takeaway from here is that I got to see players in match situations and see how they responded to adversity," Kim said afterward at Jeju World Cup Stadium in Seogwipo, Jeju Island. "I've been pushing these players the whole camp, and they looked sluggish today. But they have to overcome these challenges to play well at the Olympics. I think they felt the same way, too."

The math for Kim isn't as simple as cutting 12 players from the current pool of 30 players who are 24 or younger.

The Olympic tournament will be open to 24-or-under players, but countries can each name a maximum three players over that limit. Names such as centerback Kim Min-jae and midfielder Kwon Chang-hoon have been bandied about as candidates for those spots. Coach Kim has said even the senior national team captain Son Heung-min has expressed interest in playing for the country at the Olympics, though Tottenham Hotspur will have something to say about Son's availability.

Unlike World Cups or other FIFA-sanctioned tournaments and friendlies, clubs aren't obligated to release players for the Olympics. Kim and the KFA will have some hard negotiations to do with international and domestic clubs alike to get the players they want.

Two new faces entered the picture for Tuesday's game. Midfielder Lee Dong-gyeong and defender/midfielder Won Du-jae competed for the senior national team in World Cup qualifiers earlier in the month and reported to Kim's camp on Monday.

Lee, who scored his first senior international goal last week, had a particularly strong game Tuesday as a second-half substitute. He threaded a beautiful pass to set up Lee Dong-jun's goal in the 65th minute, and continued to create chances for his teammates the rest of the way.

Midfielder Kim Dong-hyun also made an impact with some smart passes, including one that led to the opening goal by Jeong Woo-yeong in the 41st.

Jeong, who plies his trade with SC Freiburg in Germany, solidified his case for inclusion on the Olympic team on Tuesday. Few South Korean players in his age group have the combination of Jeong's skills and speed.

But the midfield position is loaded with other offensive-minded talents. Lee Kang-in of Valencia CF is one of them. Though he was the youngest player on the current camp roster at 20, Lee is the most gifted playmaker in the U-24 pool, someone who can change the complexion of a match with a pass here and a shot there.

"I think everyone here dreams of competing at the Olympics," Lee said afterward. "We all want to do the best we can to make the team and then go grab the gold medal. If I make the final roster, I'll try to help the team as much as I can and let my strengths fit into the team system."

Up front, striker Oh Se-hun looked a bit rusty at times on Tuesday but still made his presence felt against smaller Ghanaian defenders. At 193 centimeters, Oh thrives in aerial battles and also has the necessary touch to finish around the net with his feet. But he probably fell behind another forward, Cho Gue-sung, on the depth chart, after Cho scored a goal last Saturday and had a stronger offensive game overall.

Only goalkeeper Song Bum-keun didn't see any action in these two matches, but he is firmly established as the No. 1 man. His absence in Jeju only means coach Kim didn't really need to see him and he was just trying to decide which of Ahn Joon-soo or An Chan-gi would be the backup in Tokyo.

Ahn gave up a goal Saturday while South Korea were playing a man down following defender Kim Jin-ya's ejection. On Tuesday, An likely played himself out of consideration with a shaky performance.

It was An's indecision on a long pass that directly led to Ghana's lone goal. He attempted to get to the ball that was coming in from the South Korean territory but hesitated for a split second, long enough for a Ghanaian player to beat An to the ball and set up the second-half equalizer.

Coach Kim, who watched Tuesday's match from the press row as the eye in the sky, said giving up two goals in two matches was tough to swallow and added, "We'll have to go back to the drawing board and shore up our defense."

Kim said the preparation for the Olympics will kick into another gear next week with the condensed camp.

"I want to check if I've missed anything from these two matches," the coach said. Then, without elaborating, "I got to see a lot from the players here."

(END)

(C) Yonhap News Agency. All Rights Reserved

Comment >

Most Viewed

K-POP

more

Drama/Movie

more

BRAND N TREND

more

TRIP

more