‘Korea got worst draw in London‘
By Kang Seung-woo
Despite favorable outlooks for the Korean football team’s bid for the first-ever Olympic medal, its coach said that his side is faced with a tough draw.
Nine-time Olympic qualifier Korea will play Mexico, Gabon and Switzerland in Group B in the first round of the upcoming London Olympics, scheduled to begin on July 26.
“Other than Group A, of what’s left, I think Group B is the worst draw,” Korean Olympic football manager Hong Myung-bo, 43, told reporters on his arrival from London on Saturday. Group A includes Britain, Senegal, Uruguay and the United Arab Emirates.
“In (a group stage of) a tournament that includes a clear favorite and a clear underdog, a mid-level team can advance to the next round with four points. But we are in a group that requires at least six points for a second-round berth. If Brazil or Spain wins three games, one loss is of no significance (in a group stage), but suffering a defeat will be fatal in our group as hard-fought matches are expected.
“I heard about our opponents and watched their matches. (I think) we will enter the tournament as an underdog.”
His remarks come as the Korean Olympic football squad, which has reached the finals of the Summer Games for the seventh-straight time, was domestically rated to get a favorable draw in London after avoiding football powerhouses and seeded Brazil, Spain and Britain, which will compete in an Olympic football tournament for the first time since 1960.
Hong also gave high estimations of his Olympic rivals.
“I watched the qualifying round of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) and Mexico has players who have distinct individual skills and speed. In addition, it will become stronger after adding three wild card picks to the Under-23 squad,” said Hong, who took the helm of the Olympic team in 2009.
A wild card refers to an over-age player and each team is allowed to pick up to three. Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez, better known to local fans as Chicharito, is expected to join the Mexican Olympic team.
“The Swiss team is comprised of players who belong to top-tier leagues, while Gabon is physically outstanding,” he added.
Hong said that his team will have two or three friendly matches ahead of the Olympic finals.
Meanwhile, Hong kept quiet on his wild card selections, but ruled out Bolton Wanders midfielder Lee Chung-yong. He has recently returned to full training after breaking a leg in a preseason match.
“Lee is not included on the candidate list for wild card picks,” he said.
The U-23 squad will launch its Olympic campaign against Mexico at St James’ Park in Newcastle on July 26 and after the opener, it will play Switzerland at the City of Coventry Stadium on July 29 and Gabon at Wembley on Aug. 1.