April 29, 2021 11:08
Kim Hak-bum, manager of the men's U-23 national football team, has drawn up a preliminary roster for the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo.
"I submitted a 50-man roster including 11 candidates for wildcard entries to the Korean Sport and Olympic Committee," he said at a press conference in Paju, Gyeonggi Province on Wednesday.
The roster includes Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur, Hwang Ui-jo of FC Girondins de Bordeaux and Kwon Chang-hoon of SC Freiburg as wildcards because they are over the age limit. The final roster will have 18 players, including two goalkeepers and a maximum of three wildcard entries.
Kim stressed several times the importance of training and international friendlies in June as the final preparation for the Olympics. His appeal comes amid concerns over a clash of schedules with the senior national team.
The same month Korea is scheduled to play four matches in the second round of Asian qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and the senior national team will likely want to summon Son, Hwang and others penciled in as wildcard entries for the U-23 team.
Kim said, "We haven't been able to train as a whole team for the last year and three months. Of course World Cup qualifiers are important, but the Olympics are just around the corner. I ask for their understanding of our situation," said Kim. He added, "We need to face strong teams in as many friendlies as possible so that we can find and address our weaknesses."
Korea will face New Zealand, Romania and Honduras in the group stage of the Tokyo Olympics. The top two finishers in each of the four groups will advance to the knockout stage.
Kim predicted, "It is likely to be a three-way competition amongst Korea, Honduras and Romania. Many people say we've got a favorable draw, but that puts even more pressure on us." He added, "We will need to win a medal of any color at the Olympics. The Games have already begun, now that the draw is complete."
Korea will play New Zealand first at the Kashima Stadium in Ibaraki Prefecture on July 22, a day before the Olympics open, and Romania at the same venue on July 25. The final match against Honduras will take place at the Yokohama International Stadium in Kanagawa Prefecture on July 28.
Korea won the bronze medal in London in 2012 and reached the quarterfinal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
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