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Young striker ready to sacrifice for good of team

All Headlines 17:47 August 30, 2016

PAJU, South Korea, Aug. 30 (Yonhap) -- Hwang Hee-chan, 20, may be the youngest member of the national men's football team assembled this week, but he already understands the value of sacrifice.

The striker on Tuesday joined the rest of the 20-man squad at the National Football Center (NFC) in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, as they train for the World Cup qualifier against China on Thursday.

"As a forward, I have to battle hard up front to create space for my teammates," said Hwang, who was named to the senior national team for the first time. "If I get a chance to play, I will try to be a player who can help the team."

The FC Red Bull Salzburg striker enjoyed a star turn as the youngest South Korean at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics earlier this month. Though the U-23 South Korea got knocked out of the quarterfinals, Hwang's performance was enough to earn his first selection to the senior squad, coached by Uli Stielike.

The aggressive playmaker is the only natural forward on the team that will host China at 8 p.m. Thursday at Seoul World Cup Stadium. It's the first match for both nations in the final Asian qualifying round for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

"More than anything else, it's an honor to be training with the players that I've been looking up to," Hwang said. "I am in great form. As long as I get the opportunity to play, I will show what I can do."

Hwang said he came out of his first Olympics a more confident player, adding, "I learned that I have to be more active when things aren't going my way."

In explaining his selection of Hwang, Stielike said he was one of the most consistent players in the Olympics. Hwang said he appreciated the praise and he will try to respond in kind on the field.

China have beaten South Korea just once in their 30 previous meetings. They remain the underdogs at No. 78 on the latest FIFA rankings, 30 spots below South Korea.

The visitors are expected to play physical football from the start, but Hwang said he'll be ready for anything the opponents will throw at him.

"Forwards have to adjust to physical plays and must be willing to make sacrifices," he said. "If we just stick to our game plan and execute what we've prepared, we should be able to win. I can draw defenders to myself in tight spaces and it will create plenty of space for my teammates."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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