The Olympic football team left for the British capital on Sunday as the first batch of Korea's 374 athletes in 22 sports who will represent it at the July 27-Aug. 12 London Games. The team, which is eyeing its first-ever Olympic medal, will train in Luton near London for five days and face Senegal in a friendly at Luton Lamex Stadium at 10:30 p.m. on Friday.
Korea is in Group B with Mexico, Gabon and Switzerland. Its first match is against Mexico at St James' Park in Newcastle at 10:30 p.m. on July 26. Manager Hong Myung-bo said, "Mexico is our first match, and come what may we have to win it to boost the morale of all the Korean athletes [at the London Olympics]."
The team got off to a promising start by beating New Zealand 2-1 in a friendly at Seoul World Cup Stadium on Saturday, thanks to goals from Park Chu-young and Nam Tae-hee. It was the first time for the 18 players on the Olympic roster to get together and play, and they impressed with a fine display of passing that created 22 shots, seven on target.
Mexico has been touted by ESPN as one of the contenders for the Olympic gold medal along with Brazil and Spain. In order to defang Mexico's strong attacking force, led by Dos Santos of EPL outfit Tottenham Hotspur, Korea needs to fine-tune the communication and rapport between its midfielders and defenders, critics note.