April 22, 2021 10:45
Korea will face New Zealand, Romania and Honduras in the group stage at this year's Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The draw for the men's football competition in Tokyo took place at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland on Wednesday, and is thought to be the best possible draw for Korea, as it avoided football powerhouses like France and Mexico.
Led by manager Kim Hak-bum, Korea qualified for the Olympics for the ninth consecutive time by winning the Asian Football Confederation U-23 Championship in Thailand last year.
Under Olympic rules, footballers under 23 are eligible to compete at the Olympics, with three wild card selections allowed. But since the Tokyo Olympics have been postponed for a year, an exception was made and the age limit extended to 24.
Korea's best Olympic achievement so far is the bronze medal it won in London in 2012 under manager Hong Myung-bo. Korea reached the quarterfinals in Athens in 2004 and in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. The team's goal in Tokyo is to go all the way and clinch the gold medal.
Korea will play New Zealand first at the Kashima Stadium in Ibaraki Prefecture on July 22, and Romania at the same venue three days later. The final match of the group stage will be against Honduras at the Yokohama International Stadium in Kanagawa Prefecture on July 28. The top two finishers in each of the four groups will advance to the knockout stage.
After the draw, Kim said, "There is no team that is weaker than us. We can only achieve our goal if we do our utmost to prepare for the competition."
Gracenote, a U.S.-based sports data provider, recently listed Korea as the favorite to win gold in men's football.
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