Park makes Olympic squad
By Kang Seung-woo
Arsenal Forward Park Chu-young was selected Friday as one of the three overage players for the Olympic football squad.
Olympic team coach Hong Myung-bo announced his 18 players for the London Olympics, which will be held from July 27, and included the 26-year-old footballer on his roster. The two other overage wild card players are goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong of Suwon Bluewings and Busan I’Park defender Kim Chang-soo.
FIFA just allows those who are aged under 23 to play at the Summer Olympics, but each country can use as many as three wild card picks.
Recently, Park was under fire for a apparently being able to defer his military duty due to a nationality exemption, but he brought himself back into consideration after he stated last month that he will serve his mandatory time in a press conference. He was joined by Hong who hinted that Park would be included in the team. In 2010, Park also played for Hong at the Guangzhou Asian Games, where Korea claimed a bronze medal.
“I checked Park last week and he is physically in better shape than expected, let alone mentally,” Hong said in a press conference at the headquarters of the Korea Football Association (KFA) in Seoul. Park has been privately training in Japan.
“Park can become a boost to the team in terms of experience.”
The goalie Jung, who has mainly been used in goal for the senior team since the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, is expected to bring a veteran’s poise to the inexperienced young squad.
Among candidates for the final spot of the wild card selections were Lee Jung-soo from Qatar’s Al-Sadd and Ulsan Hyundai’s Kwak Tae-hwi ― alongside Kim ― but the Qatari team refused to release Lee, while Kwak went down with an injury that will sideline him until late July.
Hong, who has headed the Under-23 squad since 2009, also picked three players from European leagues ― Celtic’s Ki Sung-yueng, Sunderland’s Ji Dong-won and Koo Ja-cheol of VfL Wolfsburg, who has recently agreed to a new one-year loan spell with FC Augsburg, although none of them played for his side in the qualifying campaign.
The nine-time Olympic qualifier Korea, seeking its first-ever medal at the quadrennial event, is drawn with Mexico, Switzerland and Gabon in Group B.
The 18 players will be summoned Monday to the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province and play two friendly matches; against New Zealand July 14 in Seoul and Senegal July 20 in London; ahead of opening its Olympic campaign against Mexico at St James’ Park in Newcastle July 26.