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S. Korea to begin training on Monday for Olympic football qualifiers

South Korea will start preparing for the Olympic men's football qualifying tournament early next week, officials announced Tuesday.

The Korea Football Association said head coach Kim Hak-bum on Monday will call up 26 players for the first training camp ahead of the 2020 Asian Football Confederation U-23 Championship, scheduled for Jan. 8-26 next year in Thailand.

South Korea`s under-23 football coach Kim Hak-bum. (Yonhap)
South Korea`s under-23 football coach Kim Hak-bum. (Yonhap)

That competition will also serve as the Asian qualifying tournament for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The top three teams in Thailand will punch their tickets to Tokyo. And since Japan have automatically qualified as the Olympic host, if they reach the semifinals, then the three other semifinalists will all be guaranteed spots at Tokyo 2020 regardless of their results in the semis or the third-place match.

There will be 16 countries divided into four groups in Thailand, and the draw will be held later this year. The top two teams from each group will advance to the quarterfinals.

For the initial camp, Kim has picked 21 professionals from the K League and five collegiate players.

The KFA said the team will train in Jeongseon, some 210 kilometers east of Seoul in Gangwon Province, through June 11. The KFA is trying to schedule about four practice matches for Kim's team.

Kim is currently in Poland to watch South Korea at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. (Yonhap)