South Korea only announced 22 out of 23 players for the U23 Asian Finals 2020. They still left a position to wait for more stars from Europe to return.
Coach Kim Hak-bum said he would try to negotiate with European clubs until the deadline to register for the tournament in Thailand (December 29).
Because U23 Asia is not a FIFA tournament, European clubs have no obligation to release people. The Korea Football Association (KFA) and Coach Kim have been constantly impacted but could not make Darmstadt 98 and especially Valencia change their mind.
Kim said Korea will continue to convince the two European teams. They left a position in the squad waiting for Lee or Paik to return. The list of 23 Korean players for the Asian tournament will only be finalized on December 29.
Koreans are determined by the U23 Asian finals and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic qualifier. They need the strongest force to compete for the Olympics.
The Asian U23 tournament is not part of FIFA’s competition system, so clubs are not obliged to return players to the teams. Kim and the Korean Football Federation are actively negotiating with Valencia (Spain) club about the case of midfielder Lee Kang-in, and with SV Darmstadt 98 club midfielder Paik Seung-ho.
Lee Kang-in, 18, and Paik Seung-ho, 20, each played for the Korean national team. Lee was also the star of the 2019 U20 World Championship, where he and his teammates reached the final and won the Golden Ball of the tournament.
In the list of 22 players announced by coach Kim Hak-bum, notably Song Bum-keun, goalkeeper of the three-time national champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Lee Dong-jun, the best player in the league. Two Korean or midfielder Jeong Woo-yeong, who returned from SC Freiburg (Germany).
U23 Asia takes place in Thailand from January 8 to January 26, 2020. South Korea is in Group C along with Uzbekistan, China and Iran. There are three other tables. The teams in the group will compete in a round-robin to select the two teams leading into the quarterfinals.
The top three teams are awarded tickets to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Since Japan is the host, if they make it to the semi-finals, the remaining three teams will automatically have tickets.