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Football forward determined to finish youth int’l career with Asiad gold

South Korean football forward Cho Young-wook fits the moniker "young veteran" perfectly.

Though only 24 years old, Cho has already represented the country in 82 matches across multiple age groups. He played six times for the under-14 national team, 46 more for the U-20 team and 26 for the U-23 team. He has also earned four caps for the senior national team.

Cho will suit up for the country once again at this year's Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, open to players 24 or younger. Because of the age limit of the competition, this will likely be Cho's last Asian Games, unless he can earn a callup as an overage player at future events.

"I've played a lot of matches in different age groups, and this could be my last one at an underage tournament," Cho told reporters before a training session at the National Football Center in Paju, north of Seoul in Gyeonggi Province. "I want to have a good finish. My confidence is running high right now."

Cho is enjoying a fine season with the military club Gimcheon Sangmu FC in the second-tier K League 2. With 13 goals in 28 matches, Cho is No. 2 in the K League 2 goal scoring race.

"As a forward, I always try to score goals," Cho said. "At the Asian Games, I will try to score about three goals."

South Korea's first Group E match will be Tuesday against Kuwait, with Bahrain and Thailand being the two other opponents. There will be six groups of four in play, and the top two teams from each group will be joined by the four best third-place teams in the knockout stage.

South Korea will try to win their third straight Asian Games gold in men's football. For young South Korean male athletes, winning an Asiad gold carries extra significance, because it grants them an exemption from the mandatory military service.

Cho is currently fulfilling his duty with Gimcheon Sangmu. But if South Korea grab gold in Hangzhou, Cho will be discharged immediately.

"That's not on my mind right now. I just want to help the team win," Cho said. "We won the last two gold medals, and I want to extend that winning streak."

Cho said he is looking forward to being reunited with midfielder Lee Kang-in, his teammate on the runner-up South Korean team at the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

Earlier Thursday, head coach Hwang Sun-hong said it wasn't clear when Lee's club, Paris Saint-Germain, would release the South Korean star for the Asian Games. Cho, one of Lee's closest friends on the Asian Games team, said he has been peppering him with questions on when he can join the rest of the boys.

"He is such a big part of this team. But we're not too worried about his absence, or about things we have to do differently without him," Cho said. "There are things he can do particularly well, but for now, guys that are here are only working on what we can do best as a team."

Source: Yonhap News Agency