Asian Games soccer gold on Lee Kang-in’s toes

Winning a gold medal at the Asian Games is a big deal for Korean soccer. In global soccer standards, it’s far less important than the World Cup, Olympics, and Asian Cup. The fact that they are not subject to FIFA’s mandatory borrowing rules proves that they are their own competition. In Asia, the reaction has been mixed. Many countries field only under-21 teams, despite the fact that they can be made up of under-23 players and over-age players (wildcards), but South Korea has always been serious. It assembled the most elite squad it could muster.토토사이트

There’s a reason for that. The Asian Games gold medal comes with a special exemption for military service. The one-year, six-month military service is a real problem for Korean soccer, which is increasingly dominated by European players. The Asian Games is the most likely place to solve this problem. South Korean soccer won back-to-back gold medals at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games and the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games, paving the way for more European players. The existing European players were able to play steadily overseas, while younger players, freed from military service, actively knocked on the door to Europe. The former are Son Heung-min and Hwang Hee-chan, while the latter are Hwang Eui-jo, Lee Jae-sung, Kim Min-jae, and Hwang In-beom.

Heading into the Hangzhou Asian Games, Hwang has one goal and one goal only. It’s only gold. And he’s going to do it with a wildcard and a European age group. He wants to win his third consecutive Asian Games men’s soccer title and extend his record for most gold medals.

Most gold medals for Korea, but it hasn’t been easy

South Korea’s men’s soccer team has won five gold medals at the Asian Games. That’s more than Iran, which has won four. At the 1970 and 1978 Games in Bangkok, they shared the title with Myanmar (then Burma) and North Korea, respectively. In Seoul in 1986, they were highly motivated as hosts and went for the gold, winning the title alone for the first time.

However, the gold medal remained elusive for the next two decades. Until 1998, the Asian Games fell apart at a crucial time, despite the fact that the A team could field an unrestricted age group. In Beijing 1990, they lost to Iran in the semifinals and finished third, and in Hiroshima 1994, they were upset by dark horse Uzbekistan in the semifinals after winning their quarterfinal match against hosts Japan in what was considered a de facto final. In Bangkok 1998, they were knocked out in the quarterfinals in a shocking loss to hosts Thailand.

In 2002 in Busan, Korea had the advantage of home field advantage, with Park Ji-sung, Lee Young-pyo, Lee Un-jae, and Lee Chun-soo the main players in the Korea-Japan World Cup quarterfinal myth, but lost to Iran on penalties in the semifinals. At the 2006 Doha Games, they lost to Middle Eastern giants Iraq and Iran and finished fourth. In Guangzhou 2010, they had to settle for a bronze medal.

It was only in the last two editions of the Games that the atrocities stopped. In 2014, Incheon produced the most complete performance in the history of the Asian Games. From the group stage to the final, they won all seven games without conceding a goal. The team’s coach, the late Lee Kwang-jong, was in perfect harmony with the players he had observed over the years as a former coach of the Korean Football Association. The biggest test came in the final against North Korea. The game, which went into extra time against a desperate North Korean defense, was decided by a dramatic goal by Lim Chang-woo just before the end of regulation.

Four years later, men’s soccer struck gold at the Jakarta-Palembang Games. With all eyes on Son Heung-min, who was in the prime of his career at Tottenham Hotspur, and whether or not he would be released from military service, Kim Hak-beom-ho won the gold medal in a tournament that saw South Korea lose to Malaysia in the group stage. In the final, South Korea faced arch-rivals Japan and came out on top with a 2-1 victory thanks to back-to-back goals from Lee Seung-woo and Hwang Hee-chan.

The Hangzhou Games, which will be the third consecutive gold medal for South Korea, was plagued by confusion and bad news from the start. Originally scheduled to take place in 2022, the tournament was postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the age limit was changed to 24 and under instead of 23 and under. The selection of players was a crucial mistake by the Korean Football Association. By the time the final roster, including the wildcard, was announced, they needed an exception from the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), which stipulates that players can only be substituted in case of injury. After more than a month of anxiously waiting, the OCA approved the change and Kim Tae-hyun was selected.

Lee Kang-in, Jung Woo-young, Hong Hyun-seok, and other European attackers ‘maximize competitiveness’

As in previous tournaments, Hwang Sun-hong has assembled a top-notch squad, with ‘Golden Boy’ Lee Kang-in at the center. Born in 2001, Lee Kang-in is the youngest member of the 1999 Asian Games team, but he is the ace in the hole. Hwang Sun-hong, the head coach, has been on the edge of his seat for the past few months. When Lee left Mallorca for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in the summer transfer window, he first emphasized that he would cooperate with PSG to participate in the Asian Games. Although he was recently ruled out of the national team due to a left quadriceps injury sustained during a Ligue 1 match, Lee has shown strong motivation to compete at the Asian Games.

Hwang admitted that it is unlikely that Lee will be able to participate in the group stage. PSG and coach Luis Enrique are in last-minute talks to secure his services, with the player traveling to China after the league schedule ends on Sept. 17. The fitness of the injured Lee Kang-in will also be closely monitored, meaning that the three matches against Kuwait (Sept. 19), Thailand (Sept. 21) and Bahrain (Sept. 24) will be played with 21 players, excluding Lee Kang-in.

The basic plan for a third consecutive Asian Games gold medal is to utilize Lee Kang-in’s overwhelming individual prowess from the tournament’s high-pressure phase after the group stage. The biggest variable is the attacking line. Unlike Kim Shin-wook in 2014 and Hwang Eui-jo in 2018, when he brought in wild cards to good effect, Hwang Sun-hong will rely on age-group players Park Jae-yong and Ahn Jae-joon up front. He considered selecting the best homegrown goalie in the K League, Lee Min-kyu, but that didn’t materialize, so he ended up with a wild card of center back Park Jin-seob, full back Seol Young-woo, and midfielder Baek Seung-ho. It’s a decidedly different strategy from the previous two tournaments, which called up A team goalkeepers like Kim Seung-gyu and Cho Hyun-woo as wild cards.

Instead, they’ll have to use their strongest secondary attacking resources to break down opposing defenses. In addition to Lee Kang-in, there are a number of other resources that can be utilized depending on the opponent, including Hong Hyun-seok and Jung Woo-young, who play in Europe, and Uhm Won-sang, Cho Young-wook, and Go Young-joon, who are the core of the domestic side. Hwang’s goal is to dominate the game with a clear advantage in the center of the field, rather than having to fight for possession. Hong Hyun-seok has also been named to Klinsmann’s A squad following his recent multi-goal run for Belgian side Gent. Chung Woo-young also scored an assist for his new club Stuttgart before joining the Asian Games squad. Domestic players are also in good form.

Lee Kang-in’s left foot will be the most anticipated in the penalty shootout. At big tournaments such as the 2019 U-20 World Cup in Poland and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Lee’s skill, passing, and dribbling shone through whenever he scored a goal. He is also an excellent set-piece taker and will be looking to use his sharp kicks to break down opponents at crucial times at the Asian Games.

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