U-23 football squad out for gold on Asiad quest

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U-23 football squad out for gold on Asiad quest

The U-23 national football team will embark on a quest to win its first Asiad gold in 24 years when the squad takes the field at 5 p.m. today against North Korea to start the tourney.

South Korea has perhaps its best chance ever this year of accomplishing the feat, as Saudi Arabia pulled out of the tourney and most Middle Eastern nations are opting not to field their best players because of the upcoming 2010 Gulf Cup of Nations in Yemen, which runs from Nov. 22 to Dec. 4. At the same time, Japan has decided not to include three wild cards, or players over the age limit.

But it certainly won’t be a cake walk. The U-23 national team is facing a bit of a setback going into today’s game, with its star forward Park Chu-young of AS Monaco unavailable for the match. AS Monaco officials initially said last Friday that they would not allow Park to participate in the Asian Games, but they changed their mind the next day. Park is flying to China from France and will join his teammates this afternoon, though he will not play in the game.

“The soonest he can play is against Jordan [on Wednesday], but that could be pushed back to the Palestine match [on Saturday] or the Round of 16,” manager Hong Myung-bo said Saturday after the team’s first practice in Guangzhou, China.

If the team’s recent overseas training camp in Okinawa, Japan, is any indication, Hong may opt for a 4-4-2 formation featuring rookie Ji Dong-won and Park Hee-sung up front with Kim Bo-kyung, Cho Young-cheol, Koo Ja-cheol and Kim Jung-woo at midfield. Ji has scored seven goals and notched three assists for the Chunnam Dragons and is a candidate for Rookie of the Year honors.

The opening ceremonies for the 2010 Asian Games will take place this Saturday.

By Jason Kim [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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