Fringe players determined to help the Olympic football team in any way they can

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PAJU – When 24-year-old midfielder Kim Jin-gyu was out of the South Korean men’s Olympic soccer team last week, he had a mix of emotions.

He was disappointed that he was not selected as one of 18 players by head coach Kim Hak-bum last Wednesday, but he was also somewhat relieved not to go through the pressure cooker that is the Olympic tournament. .

But Kim’s fate changed in less than 24 hours. FIFA has decided to grant a special extension of the rosters for all men’s soccer teams for the Tokyo Olympics, citing concerns over COVID-19. Teams could now add four players, although the lineup for the day would remain the same at 18.

The day after the unveiling of the 18-man squad, Kim was chosen as one of four new faces.

“At first I expected to be part of the team,” Kim told reporters Tuesday at the Paju National Football Center in Gyeonggi province, where the team is holding their last training camp before the Tokyo Games.

“The coach said he was sorry for making us feel so downcast,” Kim added, referring to himself and three other more picks. “He said, ‘You should all prove that I made the wrong decision to leave you out at first.'”

When asked why he thought he wasn’t picked for the 18-man squad, Kim replied that it could just be the case with the coach having better options in his position.

But that doesn’t mean Kim lacks self-confidence. He said his “aggressive passing and first touch” could serve the team well in attack.

Kim may have to beat Valencia CF midfielder Lee Kang-in for his playing time in midfield. Despite Lee being the youngest member of the squad at 20, Kim said, “He’s such a talented player, and I learn a lot from him just watching him in training.”

“If I am in a game, I would like to connect with any striker to create opportunities,” added Kim.

While Kim Jin-gyu felt he had a chance to join the team’s first edition, fullback Seol Young-woo didn’t have many expectations for himself.

“Just a few months ago, I didn’t think I would be in the Olympics,” Seol said. “Even until the last minute, I wasn’t so sure.”

Coach Kim had ridden Seol relentlessly over the past two years, trying to help the 22-year-old achieve his full potential.

“The coach identified the areas in which I needed to improve, and I think he saw that I had worked to improve myself,” said Seol, who is able to play both as a right-back. and left. “He was really hard on me, but I kept going because I wanted to play in the Olympics.”

The coach named the full back position as the weakest link in the team. Seol admitted he was a little upset to hear this, but added: “It’s a fact. We’re perfectly placed in all other positions. (Full-backs) just have to work harder and improve. . ” (Yonhap)


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