Thu, Nov 30, 2006 - Page 20 News List

S Korea off to solid Doha soccer start

FIRM FAVORITESSouth Korea's first goal against Bangladesh hit the net while fans were still settling into their seats at the first official competition of this year's 15th Asian Games

AP , DOHA, QATAR

Ilhomjon Suyunov of Uzbekistan, left, and the United Arab Emirates' Abdulla Mansour fight for the ball during their Asian Games soccer second-round match in Doha, Qatar, on Tuesday. Uzbekistan won the game 2-1.

PHOTO: AP

South Korea needed less than two minutes on Tuesday to show why they are a favorite to win their fourth Asian Games soccer title.

With the opening ceremonies still three days away, the 2002 World Cup semi-finalists kicked off the first official competition at the 15th version of the regional games by beating Bangladesh 3-0.

Lee Chun-soo scored in the second minute while most of the fans were still settling into their seats at the al-Gharrafa Football Stadium.

In other early matches on Tuesday, Thailand beat Palestine 1-0 and Uzbekistan edged the United Arab Emirates 2-1.

South Korea's offense sputtered after the early goal, and the winners didn't increase their lead until the 58th minute, when Park Chu Young scored the first of his two goals. Park, who came off the bench in the second half, added another goal in the 73rd.

"I watched the first half from the bench ... we didn't play very well," Park said. "In the second half we did much better and I could play an important role in it."

The Koreans have won 41 Asian Cup matches, more than any other team in the history of the event.

Suchao Nutnum scored Thailand's only goal in the 11th minute. Alexander Geynrikh scored a pair of goals for Uzbekistan -- in the 44th and 55th minute -- while Adel al-Marzooqi had the United Arab Emirates' only goal in the 69th minute.

Later Tuesday, Qatar thrilled the home crowd with a 3-0 win over Jordan, Bahrain beat Vietnam 2-1 and Kuwait downed Kyrgyzstan 3-0.

Table tennis and baseball get under way Wednesday, part of the 39-sport games which involve 10,500 athletes and end on Dec. 15.

North Korea's team, wearing bright blue blazers and red lapel pins bearing the likeness of the country's enigmatic leader Kim Jong-il, arrived Tuesday for its official welcoming ceremony and flag raising.

The team at the ceremony included about 90 athletes, trainers and officials.

A senior official said the team is planning to march together with the South Koreans under a "unification flag" in the opening ceremonies tomorrow.

"We are hopeful of doing that," said the official, who refused to be further identified.

In other Games news on Tuesday, Chinese officials said that its two world top-ranked table tennis players would not take part in order to allow the team to "test our less experienced players."

Men's world No. 1 Wang Liqin and women's top-ranked Zhang Yining will not compete in Doha, team official Huang Biao said.

"Wang has had some minor injuries lately," said Huang, adding that China still will have an experienced team in Doha, including Olympic gold medalists Wang Nan and Ma Lin.

China will have a relatively inexperienced team overall at Doha, which has led to the inevitable suggestions that the 2008 Olympic hosts, fearful of a doping scandal so close to the Beijing Games, are shielding many of their top athletes.

Nearly 64 percent -- 413 of the 647 athletes -- on the Chinese roster will be participating in their first major international meet, Chinese officials say.

Elsewhere, organizers said horses would be drug-tested during the games, adding to the approximately 1,200 doping tests that will be conducted on athletes.

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