Teenage striker Son Heung-min is poised to make his national team debut as manager Cho Kwang-rae has called on him for the upcoming Asian Cup.
|National team manager Cho Kwang-rae announces a 23-member squad for the 2011 Asian Cup at the KFA’s office in Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap News)|
Cho announced Friday his final 23-man squad for January’s Asian Cup in Qatar. It came as a bit of a surprise when the manager named the 18-year-old Son as one of eight midfielders.
“He has speed and power. I especially like his clever moves inside the goal area,” Cho said during a news conference at the KFA’s office in Seoul.
The teenager footballer with SV Hamburg made a successful debut at the Bundesliga this season.
The hard-nosed manager, however, admitted that it might be too early for Son to make it into his starting lineup, but added “he can be a useful substitute for the team.”
On Friday, the 56-year-old also picked two uncapped players ― goalkeeper Kim Jin-hyeon of Cerezo Osaka and Lee Yong-rae of Suwon Samsung.
U23 team captain Koo Ja-cheol and forward Ji Dong-won, 19, are among the five players featured at the Guangzhou Asian Games last month.
Forward Yoo Byung-soo of Incheon United, the K-League’s top scorer and rookie of the year, Yoon Bitgaram of Gyeongnam FC, are also included.
|Korean national team midfielder Koo Ja-cheol (left) and Son Heung-min take a break during a training session at the Jeju World Cup Stadium on Wednesday. (Yonhap News)|
Eleven of the 23 players are from this summer’s World Cup squad, including all six Europe-based players; Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-sung, Bolton Wanderers winger Lee Chung-yong, AS Monaco’s Park Chu-young and Celtic FC’s Ki Sung-yueng and Cha Du-ri.
But forward Lee Seung-yeoul and midfielder Kim Jung-woo missed the cut. Hong Jeong-ho of Jeju United, one of Cho’s favorite defenders, is also out of the squad due to an injury.
Manchester United’s winger Park, once again, is taking the captain’s armband for what he claimed to be his last mission.
The 29-year-old hinted earlier that he would retire from the national team after the Asian Cup, saying he want to make room for talented young players.
But Cho claimed Park’s presence is still crucial for the team, adding that he wants to keep Park until the 2014 World Cup.
“I’ve got to talk with him. But I believe he should stay not just for the team, but for the sake of the country,” Cho added.
The 23-man squad are due to assemble Saturday at the national training center in Paju while most overseas players, including captain Park, will be called up later depending on their league schedule. Cho and his team are heading to Abu Dhabi on Dec. 26 for the training camp.
At the Asian Cup, sixteen teams will compete at the quadrennial competition slated for Jan. 7-29 in Qatar.
Korea is in Group C with Australia, India and Bahrain. Korea will begin their Asian Cup campaign against Bahrain on Jan. 10.
Cho is aiming to end the team’s 50-year title drought at the 2011 Asian Cup. Korea has won the Asian Cup title only twice ― in 1956 and 1960.
“We haven’t paid too much attention to the Asian Cup, focusing only on the World Cup. I think that’s why we failed to win the title for such a long time,” said the manager.
“But this time will be different. I believe the squad is better than the World Cup squad, and we’ll put every effort into winning the title.” (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Team Squad for AFC Asian Cup
GK: Kim Yong-dae (FC Seoul), Jung Sung-ryong (Seongnam Ilhwa) and Kim Jin-hyeon (Cerezo Osaka)
DF: Lee Yong-rae (Suwon Samsung), Kwak Tae-hwi (Kyoto Sanga FC), Hwang Jae-Won (Suwon Samsung), Choi Hyo-jin (Sangmu), Lee Young-pyo (Al hilal), Cha Du-ri (Celtic), Cho Yong-hyung (Al-Rayyan) and Lee Jung-soo (Al-sadd)
MF: Lee Chung-yong (Bolton), Kim Bo-kyung (Cerezo Osaka), Yoon Bitgaram (Gyeongnam FC), Park Ji-sung (Manchester United), Yeom Ki-hun (Suwon Samsung), Ki Sung-yueng(Celtic) Son Heung-min (SV Hamburg), Koo Ja-cheol (Jeju United)
FW: Ji Dong-won (Chunnam Dragons), Park Chu-young (AS Monaco), Kim Shin-wook (Ulsan Hyundai) and Yoo Byung-soo (Incheon United)
By Oh Kyu-wook