Men’s U-23 football coach wants to bring hope to virus-stricken country

SEOGWIPO, South Korea-- The year 2022 will be an important one for the South Korean men's under-23 national football team, with two major competitions on the horizon.

And the team's head coach, Hwang Sun-hong, said Monday that he wants to bring hope and joy to the coronavirus-stricken country with memorable performances at those events.

Hwang opened his first training camp of the year on Monday at Gongcheonpo Training Center on Jeju Island. It's the first step toward the team's preparation for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Asian Cup in June and then the Asian Games in September.

Hwang, who took over the team in September last year, said the objective is to win both tournaments.

"If our players go in there with confidence, we can definitely achieve our goals," Hwang told reporters before practice. "A lot of people have been dealing with difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic, and I will try my best to build a team that can bring them hope and inspiration."

The camp will run through Jan. 29. Hwang has called up 28 players, all of them from the domestic K League. Hwang said he will also keep an eye on U-23 players based in Europe in the coming months, as they will most likely be in consideration for the two upcoming tournaments.

Although there are five months left until the U-23 Asian Cup, Hwang said he will only have a few more opportunities to run camps between now and the tournament.

"We will have competition at every position, and it will take some time before narrowing down candidates for the final roster," Hwang said. "We won't have much time to train together after this, so we'll have to make significant progress on getting the players to understand our strategies."

Hwang, one of the most popular strikers during his playing days with 50 goals in 103 matches, said he has been blessed with "a lot of competitive players" on hand.

"I was never as good as these players at their age. They are so much more talented," Hwang said. "The key for me as their coach is to bring out the best in them. We want to see the next Son Heung-min to come out of this group."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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