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Competition for playing time brewing in midfield for S. Korea

All News 09:29 January 19, 2016

DOHA, Jan. 19 (Yonhap) -- With South Korea having already clinched a knockout berth at the Olympic men's football qualifying tournament with one match remaining, some internal competition is brewing in a midfield already stacked with promising youngsters.

South Korea have won their first two matches at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship, which also doubles as the Asian qualifying tournament for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. The top three nations will advance to the Olympics, and South Korea have given themselves a chance by securing a quarterfinals berth thanks to their 2-1 win over Uzbekistan and 5-0 win over Yemen in Group C.

South Korea will face Iraq later Tuesday in the Qatari capital with the top group spot at stake.

For head coach Shin Tae-yong, midfielders have provided all of the offense so far. In the first match, Moon Chang-jin scored both of the South Korean goals. Then against Yemen Kwon Chang-hoon scored a hat trick while Ryu Seung-woo and Kim Seung-jun had a goal apiece.

Shin called up nine midfielders to his U-23 squad and two of them, Yu In-soo and Kang Sang-woo, have yet to take the field.

Yu, who plays for FC Tokyo in the top Japanese league, is an offensive-minded midfielder who has at times played as a striker. Kang, of the Pohang Steelers, is a winger who was named the South Korean Collegiate Player of the Year in 2012 at 19.

Shin said these players certainly have the skills to push the regulars for playing time in the knockout stage, and said they will be given a chance to shine against Iraq.

"I will build my starting lineup around players who haven't come off the bench yet," Shin told reporters after practice Monday. "They might have been reserves so far here but they're all talented players. They're in good form and they may even surprise a few people."

Shin, an MVP-winning, high-scoring midfielder during his club career in South Korea, said he believes midfielders should take up the bulk of scoring load in modern football. Moon and Kwon fit the profile as offensive-minded midfielders with a fearless approach around the net.

Elsewhere, Ryu of Bayer Leverkusen has been just the type of versatile playmaker that Shin had hoped to see, and has dispelled concerns that his lack of action on the Bundesliga club would affect his international play.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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