Olympic squad released with notable inclusions

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Olympic squad released with notable inclusions

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Korean Olympic national football team head coach Hong Myung-bo announces the 23-man squad for the Olympic Asia Qualifiers against Jordan at Korea Football Association headquarters in Seoul, yesterday. [JoongAng Ilbo]


Four Korean footballers who played in national team friendly matches against Serbia and Ghana were included in Korea’s Olympic football team squad, which will face Jordan in 2012 London Olympic Asia Qualifiers on June 19 and June 23.

Korean U-23 national team head coach Hong Myung-bo announced yesterday that Ji Dong-won, Kim Young-kwon, Yoon Bitgaram and Hong Jeong-ho are part of the 23-man squad for the two-leg second round of the Olympic qualifying matches.

Among the four, Ji and Kim are the players who impressed for the senior national team that beat Serbia and Ghana.

In the game against Ghana on Tuesday, Ji scored the opening goal with a header in the 10th minute and it was his saved header in the 89th minute that presented an opportunity for Koo Ja-cheol to score the winning goal. The 20-year-old played the full 90 minutes on the left wing against Ghana but in the Olympic team, the Chunnam Dragons player is likely to play in his natural striker position along with Bae Chun-suk, who scored two goals in the Olympic team friendly against Oman last Wednesday.

“In the game against Oman, I tested Ji as the front striker in the first half and support striker in the second half,” Hong said at the press conference. “I will use experienced players like Ji.”

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But Hong, 42, said he will not rely heavily on Ji because he could miss the qualifiers if a transfer deal with English club Sunderland AFC is completed.

“If he can’t play, then we need to find a replacement,” said Hong. “If we can’t find a substitute, then we need to find a player who can adapt to that position.”

Defender Kim Young-kwon, another rising star from the national team friendlies, will also play for the Olympic team. The 21-year-old left fullback was the Man of the Match against Serbia last Friday, scoring a goal and marking an assist in their 2-1 victory.

And just like Ji, the Omiya Ardija player will also move to his natural position, center back, and pair up with Hong Jeong-ho, another defender who played in both friendlies. Hong Myung-bo said he expects them to play important roles, including helping to boost other teammates’ confidence.

“I know both have played together for a long time,” the coach said. “The addition of those two players is like gaining a thousand troops for us.”

While Kim and Hong take care of the team’s defense and Ji leading the offense, coach Hong also picked senior national team member Yoon Bitgaram to take charge of the midfield. Yoon, 21, only played 15 minutes against Serbia as a second half substitute but Hong said he will be a crucial player for the team.

“He will be the pivotal player for us,” Hong said. “He has more experience than other players and I will give him an important role.”

Football experts say Yoon is expected to be a playmaker for the team and fill the void left by Koo Ja-cheol, who can’t join the squad because of his club’s refusal. In the game against Oman, Hong used Moon Ki-han and Kim Eun-hu to orchestrate the midfield but both lacked accurate passing and failed to keep up the tempo. Yoon is renowned in K-League for his wide vision in passing and controlling the tempo.

Along with Koo, midfielder Kim Bo-kyung, is not included in the squad because his team, Cerezo Osaka, also refused to release their player. Nam Tae-hee has also been told by his club, Valenciennes, that he will not be released.

Korea hosts Jordan on June 19 at Seoul World Cup Stadium and travels to Jordan for the second leg on June 23. If the team wins they will advance to the final round of the Olympic Asia Qualifiers.


By Song Ji-hoon, Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [일간스포츠]
홍명보팀, 사실상의 베스트 멤버로 요르단전 출격

홍명보 올림픽 축구대표팀 감독이 요르단과의 런던 올림픽 아시아 2차 예선에 출전할 23명의 명단을 9일 발표했다. 대학팀 소속 선수들은 13일 파주 NFC에 소집되며 그 외 선수들은 16일 합류한다. 이들은 19일 서울에서 요르단과 홈 1차전을 벌이고 23일 요르단의 암만에서 원정 2차전을 한다.

9일 공개된 요르단전 출전선수 명단은 사실상의 베스트 멤버다. 그간 홍명보 감독이 꾸준히 육성해 온 젊은 선수들 중 현실적으로 차출 가능한 이름이 모두 올랐다. 구자철(22·볼프스부르크), 김보경(21·세레소 오사카) 등 주축 멤버 일부가 제외됐지만, 꾸준히 관리해 온 대체멤버들이 나서 공백을 최소화한 모양새다. 국가대표팀과 올림픽팀에 함께 이름을 올려놓은 지동원(20·전남)과 윤빛가람(21·경남)은 각각 최전방 공격수와 중앙미드필더로 나서 전력 완성도를 높이는데 기여할 예정이다.

◇역시나 기댈 곳은 지동원의 발 끝

홍명보호 엔트리 중 가장 눈에 띄는 이름은 역시나 지동원이다. '전술 핵' 구자철이 빠져 무게감이 다소 떨어진 공격진에서 최전방 해결사 역할을 맡아야 할 스트라이커다.

◇윤빛가람의 중원 조율

윤빛가람의 등장 또한 반갑다. 올림픽팀은 1일 치른 오만과의 평가전(3-1승) 당시 전반 내내 어려움을 겪었다. 경기의 템포를 조절하며 정확한 패스로 상대의 압박을 뚫어낼 플레이메이커의 부재가 뼈 아팠다. 문기한(22·서울)과 김은후(21·강원)가 중원에서 무난하게 경기를 조율했지만, 완성도에서 높은 점수를 받지 못했다. 시야가 넓고 패싱력이 뛰어난 윤빛가람의 합류는 홍명보호 공격전술의 완성도를 높일 기회로 여겨진다.


◇23명 발탁의 숨은 뜻

홍명보 감독이 요르단전을 앞두고 공개한 엔트리는 총 23명이다. 올림픽 2차 예선의 공식 엔트리(18명)보다 5명 많다. 향후 치러질 예선에서 지동원·김보경·김영권·홍정호 등을 활용하지 못할 수도 있다. 이를 대비해 유망한 대학생 선수들에게 경험을 많이 쌓아주려는 의도다.
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