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Going for the Olympic Final Four

Posted May. 02, 2004 21:48,   


Korea’s Olympic Soccer Team beat China and in doing so, accomplished a brilliant achievement of advancing to its fifth consecutive Olympics.

Korea crushed China with a score of 2-0 with goals by Cho Jae-jin (Suwon Samsung) and Kim Dong-jin (FC Seoul) at 45 minutes and 47 minutes in group A’s 5th match of the 2004 Athens Olympic Soccer Asian final preliminaries, held at Herlung Stadium, Changsa, China on May 1.

With this, Korea earned 15 winning points with its 5 straight wins and confirmed the team’s advance over Iran (3 wins, 2 losses), China (1 win, 1 draw, 3 losses), Malaysia (1 draw, 4 losses) regardless of the result of Korea’s final match against Iran on May 12. Also, Korea continued its winning streak over China which dates back to when Korea defeated China (1-0) in the ‘78 Bangkok Asia Games, and reflects impressive success for both its National team (15 wins, 10 draws) and Olympic Team (7 wins, 1 draw).

Coach Kim Ho-gon suffered a ruptured eardrum from overstrain and stated, “From now on, I will maximize our potential through exhibition matches against good teams in Europe in order to challenge for the final four.”

▽Is it possible for Korean soccer to capture its first Olympic medal?= Korea has never earned a medal in an Olympics where 16 teams play to determine the advancing eight teams.

Korea once entered the final eight by beating Mexico in the 1948 London Olympics where no group leagues were carried out, but never advanced from the first round in the ‘64 Tokyo Olympics, ’88 Seoul Olympics, ‘92 Barcelona Olympics, ‘96 Atlanta Olympics, or the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

In this year’s Athens Olympics, which marks Korea’s 7th opportunity to challenge, it’s not just a dream for Korea to land in the final eight. Members of the 2002 World Cup final four team, Park Ji-seong (PSV Eindhoven) and Lee Cheon-soo (Real Sociedad) form the core of the team, and Cho Jae-jin, who had attacking points in four straight games, and Choi Seong-gook (Ulsan Hyundai) have grown quickly. Ample international experience is also a positive factor for Korea.

▽ Who will be a wild card?= The top candidate for three wild card (no age restrictions) players is Yoo Sang-cheol (Yokohama Marinos), joining the Olympic Team which consists players under 23 years old.

Having missed the mental leader who can control a team’s play back on defense, Coach Kim said, “I have Yoo in mind as a team leader for the defense.”

The remaining two spots will go to a midfielder and a striker. Kim Nam-il (Jeonnam Dragons), Lee Young-pyo (Eindhoven) and Song Jong-gook (Feyenoord) are quickly rising for the position of midfielder. Seol Ki-hyun (Anderlecht) is a strong candidate as a striker.

Sang-Ho Kim hyangsan@donga.com