The smiles on the faces of the rookie Taeguk Warriors as they walked into Changwon Sports Complex were bright despite the sweltering heat. They were excited to realize their dream of qualifying for the Asian Games, something that every Korean soccer player dreams of at least once. It’s unfortunate that the arrival of national midfielder Lee Kang-in (22-Paris Saint-Germain) has been delayed due to injury, but the goal of gold remains unchanged.
The Asian Games men’s football team, led by Hwang Sun-hong (55, pictured below), will have a final tune-up here from April 4 to 12 before heading to the Paju Training Center for further training before departing for Hangzhou, where the tournament begins on June 16.
At the Changwon Sports Complex on Friday, the 24 players ran nonstop under the direction of the coaching staff. Originally, 22 players were named in the final Asian Games roster announced by Hwang in July. Seven additional training partners were added to the roster to account for the withdrawal of Hong Hyun-seok and Seol Young-woo from the September A-Match (Hong), the participation of Kim Jong-hoon in the first qualifying round of the Paris Olympics (Kim), and five players who were delayed due to injury (Lee Kang-in) and flight (Lee Han-beom).
Hwang watched his players do their best in training and hoped they would be back to full strength as soon as possible. The biggest variable is the timing of Lee Kang-in’s arrival, who is rehabilitating from an anterior thigh muscle injury. “In the official letter (to Paris Saint-Germain), they said they would give a decision on the 13th,” Hwang said, adding, “(Lee) will start training with the ball this week and focus on the weekend game (against Nice on Sunday) in two weeks. I would like him to come sooner.”
Hwang can’t wait for Lee to join the team, not only because it’s been a while since he’s worked with the existing players, but also because of the tactical changes. “It’s been over a year since we’ve played together (since the U23 Asian Cup in June last year). We need to make decisions about combinations and positioning, so I’m feeling a bit impatient,” he said.
What comforts Huang is the willingness of the rest of the team. Given the hot and humid weather in Hangzhou, the players are in high spirits despite training during the hottest hours of the day. “The coach is the first to joke around (to lighten the mood),” said Jung Woo-young (24-Stuttgart), adding, “The goal is gold. We just need to follow what he has prepared and the results will follow.”
Hwang also shared his plan for the gold medal for the players who believe in him. He envisioned playing practical and compact soccer, including set pieces as a shortcut to victory. “Only the coach needs to be in a hurry. I hope the players will take their time,” said Hwang.
The brothers, who joined the team as wildcards (players over 24 years old), were even more determined to 토토사이트 live up to the expectations. Baek Seung-ho (26, North Korea) was especially eager to win gold after missing the Jakarta-Palembang Games five years ago. “I still remember the disappointment,” Baek said, adding, “My brother (Park) Jin-seop, myself, and (Seol) Young-woo are about to enlist in the military. Regardless of the motivation of military service benefits, we will definitely bring home a gold medal with our juniors in the competitions where we represent Korea.”