Altitude a concern for Korea in second-leg against Jordan

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Altitude a concern for Korea in second-leg against Jordan

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The Korean Olympic football team is close to sealing its entry into the final round of the London Olympic Asia qualifiers, with a potentially tough road match tonight against Jordan that will determine their fate.

Korea defeated Jordan 3-1 in the first leg at Seoul World Cup Stadium on Sunday, but its relatively easy win at home won’t ensure victory in Amman. After all, the team spent more than 15 hours traveling to the Middle Eastern country and will be playing at an altitude they’re not used to, at Amman International Stadium, which is 920 meters (3,018 feet) above sea level.

Some members of the team said that they’re more concerned about the altitude’s effect on ball movement than their breathing.

“We don’t feel much difference [in terms of cardio], but certainly the ball is going to travel further than in Korea,” said head coach Hong Myung-bo on Tuesday. “Players should know this [before playing the game].”

At high altitudes, ball speed and the distance it can travel increases because of the thin air. To prepare for this unfamiliar environment, the Korean Olympic team is training at Prince Mohammed Stadium, which is at a similar altitude to the pitch they’ll be playing on tonight, and goalkeeper coach Kim Bong-soo has been training Ha Kang-jin and Lee Beom-young on how to work in that environment.

But it’s not just the different environment Korea will have to deal with.

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Korean Olympic football team players practice at Prince Mohammed Stadium in Zarqa, Jordan, yesterday. Korea plays Jordan at Amman International Stadium tonight. [YONHAP]

The Jordan Football Association said that between 10,000 and 15,000 fans will attend the match, while the number of Korea supporters is expected to number about 200, including Koreans living in Jordan.

Hong said it will be a mental challenge for the young players but added that the team is prepared to seal the deal to reach the next round.

“There won’t be much difference in our football style [this leg],” Hong said. “We will play how we played last time.”

Hong is expected to make only one change from the lineup used in the first leg. Gwangju FC player Kim Dong-sub, who netted the team’s third goal on Sunday with a header, will be the starting striker instead of Bae Chun-suk, who was replaced by Kim 30 minutes into the first half of the game in Seoul.

Kim, 22, will pair up with Ji Dong-won, while Kim Min-woo and Kim Tae-hwan will provide help from the flanks. The two wingers played significant roles in Korea’s attack during the first leg and are expected to deliver plenty of crosses for the two forwards.

In the midfield, Yoon Bitgaram, who scored a penalty and provided an assist in the first leg, will be the team’s conductor, with support from FC Seoul’s Moon Ki-han. The center backs will be Hong Jeong-ho and Kim Young-kwon, while Yun Suk-young and Oh Jae-seok will take the full back positions.

If Korea expects to maintain its two-goal cushion over Jordan, it will likely have to score the opening goal to feel comfortable the rest of the game, football pundits said.

Jordan struck first on Sunday and Korea was forced to play catch-up as Jordan tried to slow down the game - not a situation Korea wants to be in again.

“In order to prevent them from wasting time, we need to get the opening goal,” said team captain Hong Jeong-ho. “We will get more opportunities when the opponent tries to attack in a hurry.”

With the 3-1 victory at home, the Korean Olympic team needs to tie or even lose by a single goal in the second leg to advance to the next round.

If the team loses to Jordan 2-0, Korea will be eliminated by the away goals rule, which states that if the two teams are tied after the two legs, the team with more goals on the road has an advantage in that those away goals count for double.

If Korea loses the match 3-1, the team will enter extra time to determine the winner. There will be a penalty shootout if the two sides are still tied after extra time.

If Korea beats Jordan, it will join the other 11 winners of the second round and will be drawn into one of three groups of four for the final round of play. The draw is scheduled for July 7 and the final round will begin in September.

Only those countries that top each group will earn an automatic berth to the London Olympics, while the runners-up from each group will go through a playoff and one of them will win the right to compete against an African nation for the final pass to the Olympics.

Korea has appeared the Olympics eight times - this will be its seventh straight if it advances.


By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [연합]
홍명보 "1차전보다 나은 경기하겠다"

홍명보 한국 올림픽 축구대표팀 감독은 2012년 런던 올림픽 남자축구 아시아지역 2차 예선에서 만난 요르단과의 두 번째 대결에서는 처음보다 나은 경기를 펼치겠다고 밝혔다.

홍 감독은 23일 오후 12시(이하 한국시간) 요르단 암만의 암만국제경기장에서 열릴 런던 올림픽 2차 예선 요르단과의 원정경기를 앞두고 22일 오후 요르단축구협회에서 진행된 공식 기자회견에 참석해 경기 준비 상황과 각오 등을 밝혔다.

홍 감독은 먼저 '어느 팀이 이길 것으로 생각하느냐?'는 요르단 기자의 물음에 "나도 아직 모르겠다"고 웃으면서 답한 뒤 "우리가 첫 경기에서 승리했지만 이번 원정경기에서 또 이기고 싶다. 이기려고 모든 노력을 하겠다"고 말했다.

한국은 지난 19일 서울에서 치른 1차전에서 요르단을 3-1로 꺾어 최종예선 진출에 한걸음 다가섰다.


홍 감독은 2차전 전술 구상과 관련해 "아직 밝힐 시점은 아니다"라고 말을 아끼면서 "요르단도 좋은 팀이고 홈에서 경기하니 적극적으로 나올 것으로 예상한다. 우리 선수들도 철저히 대비하고 있다"고 대답했다.

이어 그는 "두 골 차는 안심할 수 없다. 하지만 우리 선수들은 2∼3일 시간을 같이 보내면서 1차전보다는 더 나은 경기를 할 준비가 돼 있다"고 덧붙였다.

홍 감독은 선제골의 중요성에 대해서도 강조했다.

그는 "우리가 먼저 실점하면 분위기가 또 다른 방향으로 흘러갈 수 있다. 그러면 우리 선수들의 단점으로 지적되는 경험 부족이 문제가 될 수 있다"며 "그런 방향으로 가지 않도록 미리 철저하게 봉쇄하겠다"고 밝혔다.

이날 홍 감독과 함께 기자회견에 참석한 수비수 오재석(강원)은 "요르단이 지난해 광저우 아시안게임 때보다 조직적으로 더 준비된 느낌이었다"라고 말한 뒤 "하지만 원정경기에서도 우리가 원하는 경기를 하는 것이 중요하다. 1차전에서 못 한 것을 보여주겠다"고 선수단 대표로 각오를 드러냈다.

한편 앞서 기자회견을 한 요르단 대표팀의 알라 나빌 감독은 "1차전과 다른 결과를 내려고 새로운 계획을 준비했다"고 밝혔다.

그는 "한국은 강팀이지만 아직 우리에게도 희망은 있다. 오직 두 골 차다"면서 "무엇보다 수비수와 공격수 간의 균형에 신경쓰겠다"고 덧붙였다.

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