South Korea’s 23-man roster for this year’s FIFA World Cup, announced on Thursday, included only six players from the domestic K League Classic, with 17 others joining from leagues in Europe, China and Japan.
At the previous World Cup four years ago, there were 13 players from the K League Classic, and 10 were based in foreign leagues. The reversal in trend this year is a testament to South Korean players’ development, with more and more players signing with top-flight clubs overseas.
The half-dozen chosen ones from the K League Classic had to beat out some tough competition for spots on the World Cup squad. They said representing the country at football’s grandest tournament comes as a great honor.
Forward Kim Shin-wook is one of three players from Ulsan Hyundai who made the World Cup roster. As the tallest player on the team at 196 centimeters, Kim, the reigning K League Classic MVP, will be tasked with providing some aerial attack.
“I am going to be representing my club and our league,” Kim said. “I will put everything on the line for the national team.”
Lee Yong, a right fullback for Ulsan, had been a virtual unknown before head coach Hong Myung-bo became the national head coach last June and began giving him playing opportunities. The hardworking 27-year-old has played his way onto the team and is expected to be the main fullback in Brazil.
“I don’t think I’ve taken as many calls (congratulating me on the selection) as I did today,” Lee said. “I’d like to thank our Ulsan fans for their support, and I hope to come home with good results.”
Like Kim Shin-wook and Lee, Ulsan’s goalkeeper, Kim Seung-gyu, will be heading to his first World Cup
“It’s a dream for every football player to make the World Cup squad,” the netminder said.
Kim Seung-gyu will battle Jung Sung-ryong, the No. 1 keeper at the 2010 World Cup, for the top job in Brazil. Jung, one of five carryovers from the 2010 tournament, refused to look too far down the road.
“It’s difficult enough to play in one World Cup, and it’s a great honor to make the team for the second time,” he said. “I feel a huge sense of responsibility. But I have one more match left for Suwon (before the national team camp opens on Monday).” (Yonhap)