The Asian Games national soccer team, led by coach Hwang Seon-hong (55), is off to a strong start toward its third consecutive victory in the tournament.
Korea will play its first match in Group E of the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games against Kuwait, the ‘Middle East’s ambush’, at Jinhua Stadium in Zhejiang Province, China, at 8:30 pm on the 19th. Korean soccer, which won gold medals in succession at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games and the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Games, is attempting to win three consecutive championships for the first time in its history.
At the Hangzhou Asian Games, Korea won more than 50 gold medals and aimed to secure third place overall. The Korean team’s first match across all events in this tournament is against Kuwait. The Hangzhou Asian Games will open on the 23rd, but some sports, such as soccer and volleyball, will begin preliminaries before the opening. In the group stage of this tournament, 23 countries will compete in 6 groups. The 12 countries ranked 1st and 2nd in each group, as well as the 4 countries with the best 3rd place, will advance to the round of 16. Korea was placed in Group E along with Kuwait, Thailand (21st), and Bahrain (24th).스포츠토토
Goalkeeper Lee Kwang-yeon (24, Gangwon FC) will take on the role of Korea’s ‘rear commander.’ Ace Lee Kang-in (22), who will lead the attack, will join on the 21st after playing a game for his team, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). As in the Jakarta-Palembang tournament four years ago, there are no star goal scorers like Son Heung-min (Tottenham), Hwang Ui-jo (Norwich City), or Lee Seung-woo (Suwon FC). Given the situation, some experts predict a close game with a one-goal difference. Lee Kwang-yeon said, “Director Hwang Seon-hong ordered me to ‘act with confidence and with a relaxed mind.’ I will shake off the pressure and do my best to stop the sandstorm in the Middle East.”
For a goalkeeper, ‘experience’ is as important as outstanding physical ability. Unlike field players, who mostly retire in their mid-30s, there are quite a few goalkeepers who are active even in their late 30s. Even in the Jakarta-Palembang tournament, veteran goalkeeper Cho Hyun-woo (Ulsan Hyundai), who had experienced many hardships, was selected as a wild card (age 24 or older at the time) and guarded Korea’s goal.
Although Lee Gwang-yeon is 24 years old, she has a lot of experience in major competitions. He led Korea to second place together with Lee Kang-in at the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup. He appeared full-time in all matches (7 games, 8 goals conceded). After the final whistle sounded, fans gave them the nickname ‘Bit Gwang-yeon’ as they threw their bodies to block the opponent’s shot out of anger.
Coach Hwang Seon-hong entrusted Lee Kwang-yeon as the starting goalkeeper, saying, “Experience in big games cannot be ignored.” Lee Gwang-yeon said, “I have experienced close matches with three or four goals in international competitions for each age group, and I have grown by experiencing nail-biting games with a one-goal difference. I am proud to say that my mental power is strong to begin with, and my judgment is as good as that of veteran seniors.”
His height is 1m84cm, which is relatively short for a goalkeeper. Still, he overcame his shortcomings with his quick reaction speed. Since his school days, he has done 200 push-ups every day, and this is thanks to weight training for 1 hour and 30 minutes to evenly develop the strength of his upper and lower body. His muscular physique gives an intimidating feeling to his opponents. Moreover, he has good elasticity, so he reacts half a beat faster to the opponent’s attacker’s shot.
Lee Gwang-yeon said, “I am strong in tournaments. I have never lost in a penalty shootout. It’s because I have a ‘feel’ for which side to play in. I took a break last year due to a cruciate ligament injury, but as if by heaven’s will, the Asian Games were postponed for a year. “We had a good opportunity, but we will try to concede 0 points.” He also said, “From the day I was selected to represent the Asian Games until now, I have only thought about winning the gold medal. I will achieve three consecutive Asian Games wins with Kangin.”