Klinsmann’s next opponent, Vietnam, fell 0-2 in a match against Uzbekistan held in Dalian, China on the 13th.

While doubts are growing about the income Korea can gain from the friendly match against Vietnam, another match in Uzbekistan on the same day also attracted attention. This is because Uzbekistan, the rival that Korea defeated at the Hangzhou Asian Games, has taken its first step toward Paris next year.

The Uzbekistan under-23 football team, led by coach Timur Kapadze, invited the Spanish under-21 football team to their home stadium and drew 0-0. The opponent, Spain, had qualified for the Paris Olympics by finishing second in the European Under-21 Football Championship in July, so it was in fact an evaluation match aimed at the Olympics.

The two countries focused so thoroughly on the content, not the results, that they replaced all players at halftime. Spain, sighing at the misfortune at the goalpost, clearly showed off a better performance, but Uzbekistan also received high scores for its persistent soccer.

Uzbekistan also has a friendly match scheduled against Egypt, known as the descendants of the Pharaohs, at the same location on the 16th. Egypt also won a ticket to the Paris Olympics by finishing as runner-up at the Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations, which ended last July, so the race for an Olympic medal has already begun.

Uzbekistan’s extraordinary determination for the Olympics was confirmed at the Asian Games, which ended with a bronze medal. While wild cards (players over 24 years of age) were not selected, mainly 22-year-olds, the Olympic age group, participated in the Asian Games. Since the members participated in this evaluation match, their performance is expected to improve.

Uzbekistan’s quick preparation is compared to Korea, which has not even started forming its national team yet. Korea also passed the first round of Asian qualifiers for the Paris Olympics held in Changwon last September, but the appearance of the players may change depending on the addition of some Asian Games members such as Lee Kang-in (22, Paris Saint-Germain).

There is also the burden of having to win a ticket to the Olympics at the Under-23 Asian Cup, which will be held in Qatar next April.

Hwang Seon-hong, coach of the Olympic soccer team, also emphasizes the need for active support. On his return to Korea through Incheon Airport on the 8th, he said, “Uzbekistan and Japan have been preparing for the Games (Olympics) for nearly three years. On the other hand, there is a clear difference in that we have only a few convocations and even those are uncertain,” he said, adding, “We need support so we can prepare diligently.”


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