|Yeom Ki-hun (Yonhap News)|
Yeom is one of 23 players who traveled to the South American country this week as South Korea kicked off its preparation for the big tournament this summer. Head coach Hong Myung-bo called up players from leagues in South Korea, Japan and China, with star players in European leagues in the middle of their seasons.
For the World Cup, South Korea is expected to name about a dozen players from European leagues. That will leave another dozen or so spots up for grabs for about 20 players from the Asian leagues.
South Korea has more depth in some positions than others. On the wings, the country has some good young talent in Europe, such as Son Heung-min of Bayer Leverkusen, Kim Bo-kyung of Cardiff City and Lee Chung-yong of Bolton Wanderers. All three, in their early- to mid-20s, have shown solid goal scoring and playmaking skills, and Lee was a key member of the 2010 World Cup team that reached the round of 16 in South Africa.
It will be a tough position for those from the Asian leagues to crack, especially for someone like Yeom, a 30-year-old winger for Suwon Bluewings in South Korea’s K League Classic. Since playing on that 2010 World Cup team, Yeom gradually faded into obscurity, while younger players kept making headway.
Ahead of the team’s practice Wednesday, Yeom said he hasn’t counted himself out for this year’s World Cup squad just yet.
“I don’t know if I can survive this competition, but I will give all I have until the end,” he said. “It’s obviously not going to be easy trying to beat younger guys for the job. If I can demonstrate my strengths, then I think I will have a chance.”