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Rising S. Korean star picks up hat trick in Olympic qualifying tournament

All News 00:28 January 17, 2016

DOHA, Jan. 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korean midfielder Kwon Chang-hoon, one of the country's most promising young players, put his considerable offensive skills on full display on Saturday, picking up a hat trick in South Korea's 5-0 win over Yemen in the Olympic qualifying tournament.

The Suwon Samsung Bluewings' star scored three times in the first half alone, as South Korea won their second straight match at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship at Suhaim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha. The championship also serves as the Asian qualifying tournament for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Kwon put South Korea on board in the 14th minute, and added two more over the next 27 minutes to complete his trick.

The first goal came on a pretty feed by forward Hwang Hee-chan, who found enough space between two defenders to set up Kwon for an open chance.

Kwon's second goal came on a header off a Lee Seul-chan cross in the 31st. Ten minutes later, midfielder Ryu Seung-woo teed one up for Kwon, who struck it to the top shelf, past helpless goalkeeper Salem Al-Harsh.

Kwon wasn't done. He set up Ryu's first goal of the tournament in the 72nd. Then in the 78th, Kwon almost scored his fourth goal, as his shot went off the hand of Al-Harsh and then the crossbar.

A virtual no-name in 2014, Kwon blossomed into an unlikely scoring threat for the senior national team under head coach Uli Stielike in 2015. Kwon made his international debut during the East Asian Cup in August. In the following months, Kwon picked up three goals in two World Cup qualifying matches in a six-day span

Kwon also enjoyed his best K League Classic season for Suwon, scoring 10 goals in 35 matches to rank second on the team. He was also selected as one of four midfielders on the season-end K League Classic All-Star Team, his first such honor.

Because he's still only 21, Kwon was eligible to compete for the U-23 squad for the AFC event. After sustaining a knee injury late in his club season, Kwon was limited in practices leading up to the tournament, and didn't much action in South Korea's two test matches last week in Dubai. Then in the first group match against Uzbekistan, Kwon came off the bench in the second half.

Hoping South Korea would score as many goals as possible against the underdog Yemen and give themselves some breathing room, head coach Shin Tae-yong inserted Kwon into the starting lineup Saturday. And the midfielder responded in kind with a memorable performance.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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