Youth soccer eyes the Asian title

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Youth soccer eyes the Asian title

The South Korean Youth Soccer Team, made up of professional and amateur players under the age of 20, drew Paraguay 1-1 in an evaluation match on Sunday at Changwon Sports Complex in South Gyeongsang province.
It was the final match in preparation for the biennial Asian Football Confederation Youth Championship, which will begin this Saturday and run to Oct. 9 in Kuala Lumpur, Joharbahru and Ipoh, all in Malaysia.
Kim Seung-yong and Han Dong-won (both play for FC Seoul) started as the two strikers, with Jo Won-kwang (FC Sochaux) playing wide on the right.
Only two minutes into the match, South Korea scored the first goal off Lee Gang-jin’s (Tokyo Verdi) header. He was given service by Kim Seung-yong’s free kick from the right side of midfield.
Paraguay, which beat South Korea 3-2 in the quarterfinals at the Athens Olympics, showed the strength of its youth soccer team again. In the eighth minute of the second half, substitute Juan Ramos took a pass from Fernando Rodriguez and tied the game with a medium-range strike.
Although Shin Young Rok (Suwon Samsung Bluewings), who replaced Kim Seung-yong in the second half, managed a few vigorous attempts on goal, as a team South Korea failed to muster much of an attack.
Overall, South Korea looked sloppy, with several missed passes and an uncoordinated offense. The defense also appeared shaky.
“Our offensive power and speed became weaker because we didn’t have enough players available for substitution,” said coach Park Sung-hwa.
Although preparations for the match began Sept. 5, Mr. Park faced many difficulties as some Korean League teams temporarily prevented players from participating.
In addition, one of the main strikers, Park Joo-young (Korea University), and a midfielder, Kim Young-shin (Yonsei University), stayed on the bench because they had played in the Yon-Ko Fete, a major athletics meet between Yonsei and Korea University, the previous day.
South Korea has won the Asian Youth Championship 10 times, with its last victory in 2002 in Qatar.
In this year’s competition, South Korea is aiming not only for its second straight victory but also for a spot in the World Youth Championship in 2005. Four slots are given to the top four teams in the Asian Youth Championship.
Since South Korea won all three matches in the Busan Four Nations International Youth Tournament in June, the coach has high hopes for the upcoming tournament.
“I know it’s not going to be easy. But definitely, our goal is winning a championship,” said Mr. Park.

by Kang Hye-ran
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