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S. Korean coach guards against overconfidence in Olympic football qualifier vs. China

All News 15:43 January 08, 2020

SONGKHLA, Thailand, Jan. 8 (Yonhap) -- On the eve of an Olympic men's football qualifying match against China, South Korea head coach Kim Hak-bum said Wednesday overconfidence could be his team's worst enemy.

South Korea and China will clash in the Group C match of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship at Tinsulanon Stadium in Songkhla, Thailand, on Thursday. The kickoff is 8:15 p.m. local time, or 10:15 p.m. in Seoul. The AFC tournament doubles as the Asian qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Kim Hak-bum, head coach of the South Korean men's under-23 national football team, speaks at a press conference at Tinsulanon Stadium in Songkhla, Thailand on Jan. 8, 2020, on the eve of his team's first match at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship. (Yonhap)

Iran and Uzbekistan are the two other countries in Group C. And the two best teams from each of the four groups at the end of the preliminary round will advance to the quarterfinals. The top three teams overall will qualify for the Olympics.

At a joint press conference of the four head coaches of the Group C teams at Tinsulanon Stadium, Kim said South Korea will be in for a tough fight.

"Our group is so deep that anyone could reach the quarterfinals," Kim said. "The first match against China will be the most important and also the most difficult match for us. I believe our players will be able to overcome that."

At the U-23 level, South Korea have beaten China 10 times in 14 matches, with three draws and one loss. But they haven't faced each other since November 2015.

Kim Hak-bum (L), head coach of the South Korean men's under-23 national football team, speaks at a press conference at Tinsulanon Stadium in Songkhla, Thailandon Jan. 8, 2020, on the eve of his team's first match at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship. To Kim's left is Hao Wei, head coach of China. (Yonhap)

When asked if South Korea will come out firing against China since his team will be heavily favored, Kim responded, "We're ready to face them and we won't let our guard down. China are a great team with an excellent coach."

South Korea are seeking their ninth consecutive trip to the Olympic men's football tournament.

Kim's Chinese counterpart, Hao Wei, said his team will try to make it to the quarterfinals.

"We've come prepared," Hao said. "South Korea are a strong team. With that in mind, we have to adjust our strategies accordingly."

The head coaches of Group C nations at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship pose for photos after their joint press conference at Tinsulanon Stadium in Songkhla, Thailandon Jan. 8, 2020. From left: Uzbekistan's Ljubinko Drulovic, South Korea's Kim Hak-bum, China's Hao Wei and Iran's Hamid Estili. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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