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Hwang aims to become world’s first ’10-time Olympian’

Training in Turkiye early in the new year

The South Korea U-23 national soccer team, led by head coach Hwang Sun-hong, will soon be traveling to Tunisia to train for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

The Korea Football Association (KFA) announced in a press release on Wednesday that the U-23 squad will be training in Turkiye starting in mid-January, along with a list of players who will be participating in the training camp.

Hwang and the squad have been planning to train overseas since the new year for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris in July and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Asian Cup, where Olympic qualification is at stake. The Asian Cup, which will see the top three teams from the 16 participating nations qualify for the Olympic Games, kicks off in April.

In the draw for the U-23 Asian Cup last November, South Korea was placed in Group B alongside Japan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and China. The top two teams from each group will advance to the quarterfinals to compete for a spot in Paris.

After the group draw, host Qatar was placed in Group A alongside Australia, Jordan, and Indonesia. Defending champions Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Thailand, and Tajikistan were placed in Group C, while Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Kuwait, and Malaysia were drawn in Group D.

To qualify for the Olympics, a team must reach at least the semifinals of the competition. If they make it to the final, they’re guaranteed a spot in the Olympics, but if they lose in the semifinals, they’ll have to play a third- and fourth-place game. The fourth-place finisher would then play an intercontinental playoff against a team from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) for a spot.

Africa has already qualified for the Olympics. Morocco won the 2023 U-23 Africa Cup of Nations, followed by Egypt and Mali in second and third place, respectively. The fourth-place finisher at the Asian Cup will face Guinea in an intercontinental playoff for a ticket to the Olympics, as Guinea lost to Mali to finish fourth.

South Korea will attempt to become the first country in the world to qualify for a 10th consecutive Olympic men’s soccer tournament. Having already made world soccer history by qualifying for the last nine Olympic Games in Tokyo, South Korea is ready to make history under Hwang.

To that end, Hwang has been training overseas since the new year. In November last year, he began his training in earnest when he faced France, the host nation of the Paris Olympics and one of the favorites to win the men’s football tournament, in a friendly match at the Stade Ocean in Le Havre, France, where he scored a goal in a 3-0 victory.

A total of 27 players were called up for this training camp. 26 of them are K League players except for Hwang In-taek (Estoril Praia, Portugal). Most of the main players who appeared in the last match against France, including captain Byun Jun-soo, Uhm Ji-sung, and Hong Yun-sang, were selected. Four players from the Hangzhou Asian Games (Kim Jung-hoon, Ko Young-joon, Ahn Jae-joon, and Hwang Jae-won) will also join Hwang Sun-hong.

The four players are first-time selections. Last year’s U-20 World Cup participants Lee Seung-won, who won the tournament’s Bronze Ball, striker Lee Young-joon and defender Hwang In-taek were called up, while Bucheon FC forward Park Ho-min also made his first appearance.

“I am grateful to the managers and officials of the K League clubs who cooperated in the selection of the players,” said Hwang, who is scheduled to depart for Turkuye on the 13th. “We will make it a valuable time to improve our competitiveness in order to achieve our goal of appearing at the Olympic Games for the 10th consecutive time.”

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