South Korean midfielder Kim Dae-won speaks in an interview with the Korea Football Association (KFA) at Hotel Cornelia Diamond Golf Resort & Spa Hotel in Antalya, Turkey, on Tuesday, in this photo provided by the KFA. (KFA)
Gangwon FC midfielder Kim Dae-won is training with the senior men's national team for the first time in Turkey this month.
He wants to make sure it won't be his last stint with the big boys.
The 24-year-old is one of 26 players called up by head coach Paulo Bento for training camp ahead of two away World Cup qualifying matches. They have been working out since Monday and will face Iceland on Saturday and then Moldova on Jan. 21 in friendly matches.
Since this camp isn't part of the FIFA international calendar, Bento wasn't able to call up Europe-based veterans in the midst of their club seasons. Instead, 25 out of 26 players are based in South Korea's K League, with the lone exception, goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu, coming in from Japan's J. League. Their club seasons are long over, and as Bento is looking to expand the pool of domestic league talent to choose from for future matches, neophytes like Kim are getting some looks in Turkey.
The rarity of this opportunity wasn't lost on Kim, who has represented South Korea 30 times at under-20 and under-23 levels.
"It's not often that we get to train without anyone from Europe, and an opportunity like this may never come again," Kim said in a video clip of the interview shared by the Korea Football Association on Wednesday. "I don't want this to be my last callup.
My goal is to keep making the team. I will prepare for the two friendlies the best I can and show (the coaching staff) what I have."
Kim, who scored a career-high nine goals for Gangwon FC last year, said his tireless work ethic is his biggest strength.
"I play hard from start to finish, and when I have the ball, I can make passes and crosses with confidence," Kim added. "I think Coach Bento will take notice if I keep executing plays."
Watching the national team from afar, Kim said he had been impressed with South Korea's dominance in ball possession.
"I think I can best show my good qualities when I have the ball," Kim said. "The bigger the possession number for the team, the better I will be able to fit into the scheme."
Kim admitted that, even in the absence of overseas-based veterans, he didn't expect to be selected for this camp.
"It's a huge honor to be here," Kim said. "And because I am around the guys that I see in the league all the time, the adjustment has been really easy. Older guys have been really helpful, too."
After the Turkey camp, South Korea will play Lebanon on Jan. 27 and Syria on Feb. 1 in their next two Group A matches in Asia's final World Cup qualifying round.
South Korea are in second place in the group, behind Iran, with four matches remaining. The top two nations will secure automatic berths to the World Cup in Qatar kicking off in November.
South Korea have played in every World Cup since 1986. (Yonhap)