By Yoo Jee-ho
PAJU, South Korea, Sept. 13 (Yonhap) -- As South Korea faces Malaysia to begin its men's football action at the Asian Games at home, head coach Lee Kwang-jong said his players are prepared for all types of situations that might arise during matches.
The 17th Asiad will officially open next Friday in Incheon, a port city west of Seoul, but the football competition for both the men and the women, will start on Sunday.
South Korea's opening Group A match will be against Malaysia at 5 p.m. Sunday at Munhak Stadium. Its two other Group A opponents are Saudi Arabia and Laos.
Lee Kwang-jong, head coach of the South Korean men's Asiad football team, speaks at a press conference at the National Football Center in Paju, South Korea, on Sept. 13, 2014. (Yonhap)
South Korea is seeking its first Asiad gold in men's football since 1986, when the competition was held in Seoul
At a press conference at the National Football Center (NFC) in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, an hour drive north of Incheon, Lee predicted Malaysia, the underdog in Sunday's match, will likely play a defensive game.
"We have to create chances on set pieces," the South Korean coach said. "We've trained well for the past two weeks (since the training camp opened on Sept. 1) and our players have avoided injuries. We will try to win tomorrow."
The men's football in Asian Games is open to players under the age of 23, though each country is alloted three "wild cards" for players over the cap. At the under-23 level, South Korea holds an edge over Malaysia with five wins, one draw and one loss in all-time meetings.
Lee said his team will likely outshoot Malaysia but admitted the high number of shots may not necessarily translate into goals. The coach said his players are prepared for that possibility.
"We have been training in a way that we will be able to stay composed and not panic even if we don't score early in the match," Lee said. "I don't think such a scenario will present much of a problem for us."
Striker Kim Shin-wook, one of Lee's three wild card players, should be the focal point of the offense. The 196-centimeter forward also played at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil this summer, and Lee said Kim's international experience should come in handy.
"People may think that Kim is only good for aerial attacks because of his height, but he also has nimble feet and works well with his teammates on the ground," the coach said. "We're going to try to utilize his skills on set pieces."
The men's tournament features 29 countries, divided into five groups of four and three groups of three. The top two from each group advance to the round of 16.
South Korea and Saudi Arabia, considered the host's biggest rival in Group A, have faced each other five times in under-23 matches. South Korea has two wins, two draws and one loss from those five matches.
South Korea has never faced Laos at the U-23 level.