U-23 team will head to Tokyo Olympics without Kim Min-jae
The Korean Olympic football team will head to Tokyo without the assistance of wildcard defender Kim “The Monster” Min-jae, after the Beijing Guoan refused to release the center back for international duty.
Kim, a formidable defender known as The Monster for his aggressive defensive play, was chosen as one of Korea’s three wildcard picks to join the U-23 squad at the Games, alongside attacker Hwang Ui-jo and Kwon Chang-hoon.
The selection was an obvious one — the U-23 team is weakest in defense and Kim, the cornerstone of the national team’s back line, would have added some much needed strength and confidence.
As a player in the Chinese league, however, Kim’s inclusion was always questionable. Like Korea, the Chinese League is still in session and FIFA does not require teams to release players for the Olympics.
Beijing can, and did, reject the KFA’s request to release Kim for the Games. Despite the rejection, Korea had been holding out hope that Kim might be snapped up by a European team — he’s seen interest from clubs in Britain, Italy and Portugal in recent weeks — before the Olympics, likely allowing him to play.
As that hasn’t happened, Kim’s spot will now go to Park Ji-soo of K League 2 club Gimcheon Sangmu.
At the Olympics, Korea will first face New Zealand on July 22 at 5.pm. at the Kashima Stadium in Kashima, Japan. The second match will be against Romania on July 25 at 8 p.m. and the third match against Honduras on July 28 at 5:30 p.m.
BY JIM BULLEY [email@example.com]