Summer is usually time for a rest for the European football league, but for U23 national team manager Hong Myung-bo, it is crucial: Hong’s U23 team is preparing for the 2012 London Olympic qualifiers.
But the former national team captain admitted that he was having difficulty preparing for the qualifying matches.
Hong named Thursday a 23-man squad for their Asian qualifier against Jordan this month. The 23-man squad features 13 K-League players, including Ji Dong-won of Chunnam Dragons and Yoon Bitgaram of Gyeongnam FC. Four players with Japanese clubs, including Kim Young-kwon of Omiya Ardija, are also in the squad.
U23 national team manager Hong Myung-bo. (Yonhap News)
But Europe-based players such as Koo Ja-cheol of Wolfsburg and SV Hamburg’s teenage striker Son Heung-min are not able to join the team due to their club schedule.
Also, Kim Bo-kyung with Cerezo Osaka, who has been a key player for Hong’s squad, is out of the squad.
Speaking of the 22-year-old midfielder Kim, Hong said: “I tried hard to persuade Kim’s club manager, but he wouldn’t let him go,” admitting that he was finding it hard to manage his team.
Last week, the U23 team manager said he was unhappy with his squad despite watching his side defeat Oman 3-1 in a home friendly. Hong wanted to use his best squad for the friendly game in preparation for the upcoming qualifier.
But, rather disappointingly, he was only able to field his reserve side as some of his key players were training with the senior team. National team manger Cho Kwang-rae earlier included defender Hong Jeong-ho, Kim Young-kwon, midfielder Yoon Bitgaram and Ji Dong-won from the U23 side. Cho and the senior team are preparing for 2014 World Cup qualifications, which start in September.
The 20-year-old striker Ji is likely to join Sunderland in the English Premier League this summer, which presents uncertainty about his future with the U23 team. Hong admitted that Ji’s absence would be a huge blow for the team.
“I don’t think we’ll be able to fill the void he will leave if he can’t play,” Hong said.
“But I have to deal with this situation, there is not enough time to prepare for the qualifier,” he added.
The U23 team are scheduled to play home-and-away matches against Jordan this month. The first of their two matches is scheduled on June 19 at the Seoul World Cup Stadium. The winner will advance to the final Asian qualification round, which begins in September.
Asked about his prediction for the upcoming match, Hong vowed not to underestimate the Middle Eastern side, saying: “We beat them in the Asian Games. But we’re missing almost half the players this time, while Jordan has kept its best squad and became stronger. It will be a difficult game.”
By Oh Kyu-wook (email@example.com