Draw puts Korea on the path to success

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Draw puts Korea on the path to success


Choi Soon-ho, a vice president of the Korea Football Association, right, waits for the draw which put Korea with Laos, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia in Group A during the 2014 Incheon Asian Games drawing ceremony yesterday. [NEWS1]

The draw ceremony for the 2014 Incheon Asian Games held yesterday at Harbor Park Hotel in the host city decided each participating nation’s opponents and schedule for football, basketball, volleyball, handball, rugby, badminton, gymnastics, water polo, kabaddi and sepaktakraw (kick volleyball).

The best draw for Korea was for the men’s football tournament, in which 29 nations will compete. Korea, which was put in Group A as the host nation, will face Saudi Arabia, Laos and Malaysia in the first round.

The draw is a good start for the Korean U-23 national team, led by Coach Lee Kwang-jong, in their quest to bring home their first gold medal since the 1986 Seoul event. Prior to the draw, Korea desperately wanted to avoid teams such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, since the Taegeuk Warriors have often struggled against them in the past.

When Saudi Arabia was put into Group A followed by Laos, the room froze with tension before the last draw. But when Malaysia was picked as the last competitor, Coach Lee, who was watching the draw, couldn’t hide his smile.

“I’m satisfied with the draw result,” Lee said. “It’s not a great one since Saudi Arabia is with us, but I think we can deal with it. People still worry about us not bringing Son Heung-min [Bayer Leverkusen], but we have 20 competitive players on the field, so I ask the nation to give us their best support in the tournament.”

The top two nations of each group will advance to the Round of 16.

Of the overall draw result, Lee said: “I think Group D is the toughest group as there are three top Asian nations that could potentially win the tournament.”

Japan, Korea’s biggest rival in Asia which is predicted to compete for gold with the Taegeuk Warriors, will first have to battle it out against Iraq and Kuwait, though Nepal won’t be a threat in Group D. North Korea will face China and Pakistan in Group F.

Besides football, Son Yeon-jae was put in Group B for the women’s group and individual rhythmic gymnastics events along with Japan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. Group A consists of China, Uzbekistan, Taiwan, Malaysia and Thailand.

The preliminary rounds for gymnastics start Oct. 1, and the 2010 Guangzhou Games bronze medalist is aiming to claim her first gold in Asia’s biggest sporting event. The rivals for the 20-year-old in the group are Minagawa Kaho and Hayakawa Sakura of Japan. Earlier this month, Son won bronze in the individual all-around in the Federation Internationale de Gymnastique’s Rhythmic Gymnastics Dundee Cup with a score of 70.25 points: 17.55 points in hoop, 17.55 points in ball, 17.35 points in clubs and 17.60 points in ribbon.

In men’s basketball, in which 16 nations will compete, Korea is paired with Jordan in Group D. The four groups C, D, E, and F are made up of only two nations. Group A and Group B have four teams each, and the top two teams will advance. The top eight nations will make it to the semifinals, which will be based on a knockout system. Korea’s quest is to win a gold medal over China. A total of 11 nations will compete in women’s basketball, which is divided into two groups. Korea was placed with China, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan and India in Group B.

A total of 16 countries will compete in men’s volleyball and Korea is placed with Qatar, Kazakhstan and Taiwan in Group A and should be one of the two top countries that make it to the next round.

Korea is aiming for a fifth-straight second-place finish in the 26-day event by winning more than 90 gold medals.

BY kwon sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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