South Korean forward Lee Keun-ho is no slouch by any stretch of the imagination. The 29-year-old was named the 2012 Asian player of the year by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) after helping his South Korean club, Ulsan Hyundai, to the AFC Champions League title that year.
On the current 23-man World Cup squad for South Korea, Lee is tied with forward Park Chu-young for most caps with 63 and is second behind Park with 18 goals.
Despite his solid credentials, Lee is expected to serve as a reserve for head coach Hong Myung-bo, who hopes the energetic forward can provide some spark off the bench.
It's a role that Lee is more than willing to embrace.
"When I enter matches as a substitute, I try to instill some energy and life into the offense," Lee said at a press conference before South Korea's practice Thursday at its base camp in Foz do Iguacu, southern Brazil. South Korea will open its World Cup campaign against Russia on Tuesday, with matches against Algeria and Belgium to follow.
Lee has come off the bench in each of South Korea's past two matches, playing 26 second-half minutes in a 1-0 loss to Tunisia on May 28 and then the final 30 minutes of the team's 4-0 loss to Ghana last Monday.
"Whether I play only for 30 or 40 minutes, my mindset is I will play as hard as I would for the full 90 minutes," Lee said.
"Basically, I want to play twice as hard as anyone."
Lee acknowledged that he and his teammates on offense have their work cut out for them, after two disappointing losses in a row.
"We need to be better organized to create scoring chances," Lee said. "It's not about any one player, but everyone has to be on the same page. We haven't been able to do that, but we're trying to fix that problem by talking to each other."
This will be Lee's first World Cup. He made the provisional roster for the 2010 tournament in South Africa but couldn't survive the final cut.
Lee said calmly that he is not daunted by the prospect of playing in his first World Cup.
"I am not doing anything special in preparation for the tournament," he said. "I am just trying to do what I've been doing all along and give 100 percent in every practice. The World Cup is obviously a special event for any football player but I am not really nervous." (Yonhap)