|Son Heung-min of Bayer Leverkusen will be looked upon to provide an offensive spark. (Yonhap News)|
South Korea on Tuesday named seven players from European leagues, including three from the top German league Bundesliga, for two upcoming friendly matches.
Head coach Hong Myung-bo announced a team of 25 players for South Korea’s matches against Haiti on Sept. 6 and Croatia on Sept. 10.
These will be the first matches in which Hong, who took over the national team in June, will have the services of Europe-based stars.
They will be tasked with providing some oomph for a side that has gone winless in four matches under Hong while scoring just once.
|Korea’s head coach Hong Myung-bo speaks about his lineup on Tuesday. (Yonhap News)|
For three matches at the East Asian Cup tournament held in July, Hong chose not to call up players from Europe as they were preparing for the new season.
Then for a friendly against Peru on Aug. 14, Hong selected players only from South Korean and Japanese leagues.
Headlining the list this time are three Bundesliga players: forward Son Heung-min of Bayer Leverkusen, midfielder Koo Ja-cheol of VfL Wolfsburg and fullback Park Joo-ho of Mainz 05.
Son, a dynamic scorer, netted a career-high 12 goals last season with Hamburger SV and was among the hot commodities in the summer market before Bayer Leverkusen snatched him up.
He has scored twice in four matches this season.
Koo, in Bundesliga since January 2011, has scored 10 goals in 30 international matches, and was a key member of the Olympic team that won the bronze medal at the 2012 London Games, with Hong as the head coach.
Park joined Mainz before this season from FC Basel in Switzerland.
The shifty 20-year-old will be counted on to provide an offensive spark from the left fullback position.
Hong returned from his 10-day trip to Germany on Monday, having watched all three in action.
The coach plans to travel to England next month to watch South Koreans playing there.
Kim Bo-kyung of Cardiff City and Ji Dong-won of Sunderland are two English Premier League players joining the national team.
Kim, a 23-year-old midfielder, has won rave reviews in his first Premier League season with inspired play on offense.
Cardiff City earned promotion to the Premiership this season after winning the second division title last season.
Park Ji-sung, former Manchester United midfielder and South Korean captain, tabbed Kim as his heir apparent when he announced his retirement from international play in January 2011.
Ji came off the bench in the season’s first two games for Sunderland.
He had played sparingly for the English club since his signing in June 2011 and spent the last season with FC Augsburg in Bundesliga on loan before returning to England for this season.
Hong has previously stressed that no player will be guaranteed a spot on the roster for next year’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
And at the press conference Tuesday, Hong said he is looking forward to friendly competition for playing time among Europe-based and Asia-based players.
“I think competition will be in full swing ahead of our two friendlies,” the coach said.
“I retained a handful of players from South Korea and Japan (from earlier matches) because I felt they can be just as competitive as their teammates from Europe.”
Hong also said no matter how talented the Europe-based players are, the national team will not revolve around them.
“I fully expect them to step in and gel with the rest of the team,” he said.
“Our goal is to make these players a part of the team and to maximize their individual skills.”
Two players from the second-division English league, midfielder Lee Chung-yong of Bolton Wanderers and defensive back Yun Suk-young of Queens Park Rangers, also made the national team.
Conspicuous by absence is Swansea City midfielder Ki Sung-yueng.
A veteran of 51 international matches and a star of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the 2012 London Olympics, Ki has mostly been confined to the bench so far this season and apparently wants out of his Premier League club.
Ki has reportedly been in head coach Michael Laudrup’s doghouse since late last season. The team acquired more midfielders in the offseason to push Ki down the depth chart.
Park Chu-young of Arsenal is another Premier League player missing from the national team.
The forward has long fallen out of favor with Arsenal’s management and has been seeking his way out of the London-based club.
Hong said he would rather not select players who aren’t seeing much action on their respective clubs, and the rule applies to seasoned international stars like Ki and Park.
“I think Ki Sung-yueng has already proven his worth, but he’s going through some difficult times with his club,” Hong said.
“I figured we should wait and see if he’s dealt before the European transfer window closes on Aug. 31.”
Among players from Asian leagues, defensive backs Kwak Tae-hwi and Kim Young-gwon will be coming in from Saudi Arabia and China, respectively.
Three more players are based in Japan.
Adding Kwak, who captained South Korea during the World Cup qualifying tournament earlier this year, was the only major change Hong made to the defensive corps.
At age 32, Kwak, playing for Al Shabab, is the oldest member on this national team. (Yonhap News)