Koreans name experienced side for qualifier

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KUALA LUMPUR: Favourites South Korea have named a very experienced side for the Olympic qualifierin Dublin from March 10-18.

Seo Jong-ho, who has 265 caps, has been named skipper. He first competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics at the age of 21, helping his team to the silver medal as Korea lost to Holland on penalties in the final.

Jong-ho was also in the squad for the 2004 Athens Games, where Korea finished eighth. He was also a member of the team who ended up sixth at the Beijing Olympics four years ago.

Nine of the South Korean players have more than 100 caps while seven others have in excess of 50. The only one with fewer than 50 caps is Jung Man-jae (40).

The three-time Olympian’s inclusion together with his Sydney 2000 team-mate Yeo Woon-kon, has certainly added more bite to the Korean challenge.

Shin Seok-kyu, who played as a fullback in Sydney and who was appointed coach after the Beijing Games, is still in charge.

The inclusion of their senior stars is bad news for Malaysia.

The Malaysians last featured in the Olympics in Sydney 2000, failing to get past the qualifiers for subsequent Games.

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) released the team lists of all the six participating countries yesterday.

National team manager George Koshy said he is aware that the Koreans have recalled some of the older players for the qualifiers.

“It doesn’t surprise us to see South Korea naming a vastly experienced side. Although South Korea and Ireland pose the biggest obstacles to our chances, we are not going to underestimate the other teams either. Every match is crucial and we will stay focused,” he said.

The Malaysians are in Cardiff, where they will play two friendlies with the Wales team before leaving for Dublin on Monday.

The other teams in the fray at the qualifier are Chile, Ukraine and Russia. Only the winner of the tournament will qualify for the Games.

Irish coach Paul Revington was quoted in the FIH website as saying that “playing in front of the home crowd is crucial to our hopes of making the Games in London”.

“It is a big honour to be hosting this qualifier and I know the team will do their best to make Ireland proud.”

India won the qualifier in New Delhi last week. The third and final men’s team for the Olympics will be determined at the qualification tournament in Kakamigahara, Japan, next month.

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