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Key players on mend for S. Korea, Qatar in Olympic football qualifying tourney

All News 09:31 January 26, 2016

DOHA, Jan. 26 (Yonhap) -- Key players for both South Korea and Qatar remain on the mend as they prepare for a crucial showdown at the regional Olympic qualifying tournament here later Tuesday.

South Korea could be without forward Hwang Hee-chan and Qatar could be missing left back Abdelkarim Hassan, when the two countries clash in the semifinals of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship in Doha.

The competition is also the Asian qualifying tournament for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. Only the top three nations will get to play in Brazil and South Korea can secure their eighth consecutive Olympic berth with a victory. Qatar are trying to qualify for their first Olympics since 1992. The loser will be relegated to the third-place match, the final chance to qualify for the Summer Games.

Both Hwang and Hassan suffered ankle injuries in the quarterfinals on Saturday.

Hwang, a Red Bull Salzburg forward who turned 20 Tuesday, has been a key component in the South Korean offense despite not having scored a goal. Thanks to his energy and pace, he has created space and generated scoring chances for wingers and attacking midfielders. Qatar head coach Felix Sanchez has singled out Hwang as the most dangerous South Korean player.

South Korea coach Shin Tae-yong said an MRI on Hwang's foot revealed no ligament damage and x-rays were negative, adding that the forward is good to go. However, Hwang hasn't joined the team practice the past two days and has instead worked out with a trainer in the team hotel.

Hassan, the Qatari captain, has been a key two-way star, with a tournament-leading four goals. Qatar have been the most productive side in the tournament with 11 goals in four matches.

He was treated at a local hospital after the North Korea match. Though Sanchez declared Hassan fit to play Tuesday, it wasn't immediately clear if he has been taking part in team practices.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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