SEOUL,  The South Korean men’s Olympic football team began the first training camp of 2021 on Monday, with three exhibition matches against pro clubs in preparation for the Tokyo Summer Games.

Coached by Kim Hak-bum, the men’s under-23 national team gathered at Gangneung Sports Complex in Gangneung, some 230 kilometers east of Seoul, on Monday. This is their first camp since November last year, when they trained ahead of a friendly tournament that featured Egypt and Brazil in Cairo.

The Korea Football Association (KFA) said the camp will run through Feb. 2.

Kim filled his camp roster with 26 players from the K League 1, K League 2 and J. League of Japan. The coach didn’t call up players from the K League 1 side Ulsan Hyundai FC, who are preparing for the FIFA Club World Cup starting on Feb. 1 in Qatar.

Also, U-23 players currently plying their trade overseas were not brought home for Kim’s camp.

South Korea qualified for the Tokyo Olympics by winning the Asian qualifying tournament, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship, in January last year, The Olympic Games were postponed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and South Korea have been reduced to occasional training and a few exhibition of friendly matches.

In that tournament in Cairo two months ago, South Korea played Egypt to a scoreless draw but lost to Brazil 3-1.

The camp roster features the 2020 Young Player of the Year winners from both the K League 1 and K League 2: Song Min-kyu of Pohang Steelers and Lee Dong-ryul of Jeju United. Lee is one of first-time callups.

The final Olympic roster will have 18 players. With Coach Kim expected to call up a handful of players based in Europe, that leaves precious few spots available for K Leaguers, and this camp will be one of their final opportunities to make an impression.

The U-23 team will stay in Gangneung for a week and then fly south to Jeju Island on Jan. 19.

They will play two K League 1 clubs, Seongnam FC and Suwon FC, on Jan. 26 and 30, and then play Daejeon Hana Citizen of the K League 2 on Feb. 2.

Source: Yonhap News Agency