Korea optimistic about Olympic football draw
Korea have been drawn with Mexico, Switzerland and Gabon for the London Olympics football competition is considered reasonably good.
But the manager of Korea’s U-23 team was cautious.
“I think we should be well-prepared for all three teams,” said Hong Myung-bo.
Mexico is the top-ranked among qualifiers from Asia, Africa, Oceania, and their CONCACAF region, named as one of four seeded nations for the men’s tournament. Manchester United forward Javier Hernández, CONCACAF Gold Cup top scorer in 2011, is a lethal weapon the Mexico team could deploy.
“Recently, I had the chance to see Mexico play. The team has exceptional skills and speed, which we have to be ready for.” Hong said.
History at the Summer Games indicates that the Korean team is favored. Getting off to a good start by defeating Mexico 5-3 at the London Olympics in 1948, the Korean team beat the Central Americans once again 1-0 in Athens in 2004. The two sides drew in Atlanta in 1996, giving Korea reasons to be optimistic.
Switzerland were silver medalists in 1924, but more recently the country’s youth team won the 2002 European Championship and the 2009 U-17 World Cup. Considering the fact Olympic squads are restricted to players under the age of 23, with just three wild card exceptions for each squad, the Alpine nation could provide tough opposition. In the last match between the two nations on Jan. 16, 2004, Korea emerged victorious.
Gabon’s footballers, making their first appearance at the Games have never faced Korea but advanced to London through regional qualification, with African nations fast-emerging as serious contenders in the sport.
“To begin with, we are going to focus on analyzing our opponents as well as each member of our team,” Hong said. “We will start practicing soon with a friendly match I requested.”
Celtic’s Ki Sung-yong is a potential ace up Korea’s sleeve for the Summer Games despite the midfielder hurting his hamstring playing for the Scottish Premier League club on the weekend. The injury will take about five weeks to heal, effectively ending his season early but he should be ready to answer Hong’s call if selected.
The group matches will kick off on July 26 with hosts Great Britain taking on Senegal.