SPORTS

Veteran striker urges players to sacrifice for natl. football team

By Yonhap
  • Published : Aug 21, 2017 - 18:12
  • Updated : Aug 21, 2017 - 18:12

PAJU, South Korea -- After returning to the national football team for the first in nearly three years, South Korean striker Lee Dong-gook said Monday the players need to sacrifice themselves for the team in the World Cup qualifying campaign.

Lee, 38, will become the second-oldest player to appear in an international match for South Korea if he takes the field either against Iran on Aug. 31 or Uzbekistan on Sept. 5 in World Cup qualifiers.

Lee, who last appeared on the national team in October 2014, said South Korea need players who can devote themselves entirely to the team.

South Korean striker Lee Dong-gook speaks to reporters at the National Football Center in Paju, north of Seoul, on Aug. 21, 2017. (Yonhap)

"When I saw the national team matches from the outside in the last few years, I noticed that there aren't many players who are willing to sacrifice for the team," Lee told reporters at the National Football Center in Paju, north of Seoul, before practice.

"To win with the national team, you need to make your teammates shine on the pitch."

Lee, all-time leading scorer in the top-flight K League Classic, said he didn't join the national team only to inspire young players in the locker room, but to actually show his talent on the pitch.

"I told head coach Shin Tae-yong that he should not pick me if he is going to use me for a purpose not related to football," he said. "But Shin told me that I will be a useful option for the team, so I was happy."

Lee, who has 33 goals in 103 international matches, said he thinks he has more to offer to the national team. The Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors striker represented South Korea at the 1998 and the 2010 FIFA World Cups.

"The national team is open to every player, but not everyone can join" he said. "I still have more to show."

The former Middlesbrough man vowed to help the team beat Iran at home.

With Iran having already secured their spot in the World Cup in Russia as the leaders in Group A, South Korea are currently second in Group A in the final Asian qualifying round, the last automatic qualification spot, with 13 points, just one above Uzbekistan.

South Korea can book tickets to the World Cup and make a ninth consecutive appearance in top football competition if they beat Iran and if Uzbekistan lose to China on the same day.

"I think South Korean football always meets Iran in critical moments," he said. "For this match, age doesn't matter. If all the players can perform with a mind that they're essential to the team, we will have good results." (Yonhap)