South Korea Olympic Soccer Team: 2012 Roster Predictions & Analysis
The South Korean men's football team aren't considered medal contenders at the 2012 Olympics due to their lack of stars, but could spring a surprise in a group containing Mexico, Switzerland and Gabon.
The "Tigers of Asia" are in Group B of the men's football tournament in London, and while they don't have many well-known players in their team, they could be a side to watch at the Olympics.
Their form in the Olympic qualifying phases was solid as they went the six games unbeaten, conceding just two goals, with celebrated manager Hong Myung-Bo creating a callously efficient team.
But with more attacking sides like Mexico and Gabon in their group, let's take a look at how the Asian powerhouse may fare this summer.
Manager Hong Myung-Bo, according to Korean media, could select his "best-ever" squad for this summer's Olympic Games.
South Korea haven't yet named their roster for London 2012, but based on their team for the King's Cup, as well as the Europe-based and over-aged players they can select, here's a rundown of the players in contention to make the 18-man roster this summer.
The over-aged stars are italicised.
Kim Seung-Gyu (Ulsan Hyundai)
Lee Beom-Young (Busan IPark)
Jung Sung-Ryong (Suwon Blue Wings)
Yun Suk-Young (Chunnam Dragons)
Hong Jeong-Ho (Jeju United)—captain
Oh Jae-Suk (Gangwon FC)
Hong Chul (Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma)
Kim Young-Kwon (Omiya Ardija)
Hwang Do-Yeon (Daejeon Citizen)
Lee Jung-Soo (Al Sadd)
Yoon Bit-Garam (Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma)
Seo Jung-Jin (Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors)
Cho Young-Cheol (Omiya Ardija)
Kim Bo-Kyung (Cerezo Osaka)
Kim Tae-Hwan (FC Seoul)
Ki Sung-Yeung (Celtic)
Son Heung-Min (Hamburg SV)
Koo Ja-Cheol (VfL Wolfsburg)
Ji Dong-Won (Sunderland)
Kim Dong-Sub (Gwangju FC)
Kim Hyun-Sung (FC Seoul)
Park Chu-Young (Arsenal)
Potential over-Age Selections
Men's football at the Olmypics is an U-23 tournament with one exception—each nation can have three players over 23 in their roster.
Manager Hong Myung-Bo is said to have a full range of options available to him, and could test some of the country's biggest names at this summer's event.
Here's a look at the possible over-age stars who could represent South Korea in London.
Jung Sung-Ryong (Goalkeeper, Suwon Blue Wings)
Jung Sung-Ryong is South Korea's No.1 goalkeeper at the moment. The 27-year-old has won 41 caps so far for the senior team, and was the starting keeper for his country at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Having made 14 appearances for the U23 side, he knows that type of football well, and was a key player for the side in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Expect him to start for South Korea this summer.
Lee Jung-Soo (Centre-back, Al Sadd)
An AFC Champions League winner with Qatar-based club Al Sadd, Lee Jung-Soo is another veteran option the manager might add to his roster to give the team more experience.
The 31-year-old centre-back has won 49 caps for the senior South Korea side, and can also offer the team a strong aerial threat in both defence and attack, with the defender known for his goal-scoring ability, having netted 23 times in his career.
Park Chu-Young (Striker, Arsenal)
National team captain and the most known footballer in the South Korea—besides Manchester United star Ji-Sung Park—26-year-old Arsenal striker Park Chu-Young is perhaps the one over-age player most certain of his place at the London Games this summer.
With 25 goals to his name from 59 caps for the senior side, the out-of-favour Gunners forward will undoubtedly be the Korean player most in-favour in London come July.
Projected Starters: Ji Dong-Won, Park Chu-Young
Projected Reserve: Kim Dong-Sub
—South Korea's two star strikers and Premier League players Ji Dong-Won (Sunderland) and Park Chu-Young (Arsenal) will undoubtedly start for their country this summer. They are the headline players with the most proven ability on the big stage.
—Kim Dong-Sub could also get some playing time though. The 23-year-old striker is the regular starter when the Europe-based players aren't available, and although he's scored just two goals from seven games for the U23 side, he did score 11 goals from 19 matches for the U20s.
—Ji Dong-Won will be the striker to watch at the Olympics for South Korea. He's learning his trade well in the Premier League, and most back in his homeland see his winner against Manchester City as a sign of things to come.
By the Numbers:
8 — Number of goals scored by Ji Dong-Won from just 15 caps for the senior national team.
Projected Starters: Ki Sung-Yeung, Koo Ja-Cheol, Kim Bo-Kyung, Seo Jung-Jin
Projected Reserves: Yoon Bit-Garam, Kim Tae-Hwan, Cho Young-Cheol
—Manager Hong Myung-Bo likes his team to retain possession of the ball and build it up slowly from midfield, so expect Celtic pass master Ki Sung-Yeung to again get the plaudits if South Korea do well.
—The Taeguk Warriors also focus a lot on movement and consistently creating options in the final third, meaning winger Seo Jung-Jin could be in for a number of assists if the opposition's full-backs aren't on top-form.
By the numbers:
45 — the number of caps Celtic midfielder Ki Sung-Yeung has earned for the senior team. He's only 23 years old.
Projected Starters: Hong Jeong-Ho (captain), Yun Suk-Young, Oh Jae-Seok, Lee Jung-Soo
Projected Reserves: Hong Chul, Kim Young-Kwon
—Centre-back and captain Hong Jeong-Ho is seen as the poster boy for the future of South Korean football, and the 22-year-old will be a key player for his team this summer. This video will show you why.
—The captain's partner in central defense, Lee Jung-Soo, will be another key player for the team, and his experience will be crucial, especially against attacking teams like Mexico and Gabon, who have a lot of firepower in their sides.
By the numbers:
2 — number of goals conceded from six games by South Korea in qualifying for the Olympics.
Projected Starter: Jung Sung-Ryong
Projected Reserve: Lee Beom-Young
—There's no looking past Jung Sung-Ryong for who will be South Korea's No.1 goalkeeper at the 2012 Olympics. It's a competition the country takes very seriously, and the manager will want his best and most experienced players participating, meaning Jung is a shoo-in.
—Lee Beom-Young should provide good competition however. The 23-year-old is experienced at the under-age levels, and has kept some decent clean sheets when called upon. A move to Europe could beckon someday.
By the numbers:
South Korea's manager for the Olympics this summer is one of the most celebrated players in Asian football.
Hong Myung-Bo, seen here at the FIFA 100 ceremony after being chosen as one of Pele's 125 greatest living footballers, is considered South Korea's best ever player, having won 136 caps for his country.
He finished his career in Major League Soccer with Los Angeles Galaxy in 2004 at the age of 35, and has since been part of the coaching set-up with South Korea's national teams.
He was assistant manager to Dick Advocaat for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, and kept his role for the 2007 Asian Cup where he worked with Pim Verbeek.
He then took up the assistant manager's role for the U23 team, before being named head coach in 2009, where he has remained since.
Hong led his team to third in the 2010 Asian Games, and has since qualified for this summer's Olympics. He also won the 2012 King's Cup with his team in Thailand.
The 43-year-old sets his team up a lot like the current Manchester United set-up, with two deep-lying playmakers supporting the wingers.
Interesting fact: Hong Myung-Bo played in four FIFA World Cup finals for South Korea (1990, 1994, 1998 and 2002), the second most in World Cup history. Only Lotthar Matthaus and Antonio Carbajal have played in more (both have played in five).
Best Case Scenario
South Korea qualify from Group B without conceding a goal, keeping the manager content, while Ji Dong-Won and Park Chu-Young both net important winners, making the nation happy.
Eventually, the "Tigers of Asia" make it to the final, and win or lose, make their country proud.
Worst Case Scenario
South Korea fall out at the first hurdle, and to add insult to injury, get thrashed by Mexico and concede a ton of goals.
They struggle to even get a point against Gabon, and the manager is sacked after failing to justify all the hype built around the team.
South Korea will finish...
At the quarterfinal stage.
Why at the quarterfinals?
This South Korea team definitely has the potential to get out of their group, even if they'll be playing a Mexico team with Javier Hernandez, a Switzerland side with Xherdan Shaqiri and a Gabon outfit with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The South Koreans are taking this tournament very seriously, and with virtually all of the nation's best and most talented players available, the seasoned World Cup campaigners are a safe bet to progress to the quarterfinals.
However, after that they'd be up against either Great Britain or Uruguay. The South Americans are now even better than the team that finished third at the 2010 World Cup, and Great Britain are on home soil.
Their opponents in the quarterfinal will simply have too much quality all over the pitch for South Korea to handle.
Nicknames: Taegeuk Warriors, Tigers of Asia, Red Devils
Manager: Hong Myung-Bo
Best Olympic Finish: Quarterfinals (Athens 2004, London 1948)
How they Qualified for the Olympics: Won Group A in the third round of the Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) Pre-Olympic Tournament, after beating Jordan 4-2 on aggregate (won 3-1 at home, drew 1-1 away) having entered in the second preliminary round (a two-legged knockout match).
Got Highlights? That's like saying, "do you breathe oxygen?". Of course we do! Check out this silky compilation of Yoon Bit-Garam's skills, and you can also see Kim Bo-Kyung (supposedly the next Ji-Sung Park) in action, while videos of Ji Dong-Won and Son Heung-Min are also available.
Fun-ish Soccer-Related Fact: In the AFC pre-Olympic qualifying tournament South Korea were competing in, Iran automatically lost 5-0 to Iraq after accidentally fielding a banned player.