Names missing as Japan eye double defense

Tue Sep 9, 2014 4:18am EDT
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By Patrick Johnston

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Shorn of its best talent and squeezed into a packed regional calendar, the Asian Games soccer tournament's struggle for stature amid grander offerings makes an exciting edition in South Korea a necessity.

With the Incheon Games not part of world governing body FIFA's calendar, top international sides in Asia have little clout when attempting to call up their best under-23 players for the event, which has been part of all 16 previous Asian Games.

Hosts South Korea tried to include talisman Son Heung-min but the 22-year-old's German club Bayer Leverkusen blocked it, already wary that they will lose the forward for most of January when he takes part in the FIFA-approved Asian Cup.

While the 16-team Asian Cup tournament in Australia is the pinnacle for the continent's players, the Asian Games soccer events seem to have little relevance even in the host nation.

The awkward 29-team men's tournament will begin on Sept. 14, five days before the Games' opening ceremony, and the same day as K-League Classic leaders Jeonbuk Motors host Gyeongnam in a likely pivotal league game.

The domestic league and FC Seoul's two-legged AFC Champions League semi-final clash against Western Sydney Wanderers will continue to run at the same time as the Games.

The Asian Football Confederation are also holding an under-16 championship in Thailand, with the final scheduled for Sept. 20, while their under-19 championships take place in Myanmar just days after the Incheon final.

Despite the clash of fixtures, the South Koreans have been able to call up international striker Kim Shin-wook from Ulsan Hyundai as one of the three overage "wildcard" players in their squad.   Continued...