Cup roster near as Korea takes Japan

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Cup roster near as Korea takes Japan


Oh Beom-seok congratulates teammate Kim Jae-sung for sealing the win with the team’s third goal of the night against Japan on Sunday in Tokyo. [YONHAP]

The national football team completed its evaluation of its domestic players with the conclusion of the East Asian Football Championships in Tokyo, and the coaching staff is one step closer to making the cuts for the 23-man World Cup roster.

“We did all the experimenting we need and have a rough idea of the roster we want for the World Cup,” said manager Huh Jung-moo.

With the World Cup to start in June, the East Asian tourney was to be the last test for K-League and J-League based hopefuls. Overseas-based players such as Park Ji-sung, Park Chu-young and Lee Chung-yong, among others, will join the team for a number of friendly matches starting on March 3 in London against Ivory Coast.

Huh has said that three to four players from the East Asian tourney roster will likely earn starting jobs on the World Cup squad. The likely candidates are goalkeeper Lee Won-jae, central defender Cho Yong-hyung and center midfielder Kim Jung-woo. A few others, such as Oh Beom-seok, Kim Bo-kyung and Koo Ja-cheol, have a shot at making the final cut as reserve players.

Huh will also have to make a decision on veteran forward Lee Dong-gook and Ahn Jung-hwan. Although Lee scored two goals in the East Asian tourney, he has been far from impressive in his recent stint with the national team. Lee Seung-yeol is also expected to get a long look from the coaching staff.

The biggest concern for the national team at the moment is the defense. Reliable regulars such as Lee Jung-soo, Cho Yong-hyung and Kim Hyung-il are lost to injuries and while Lee Young-pyo and Cha Du-ri are expected to flank the fullback positions, Huh will need to find the right two central defenders to anchor the line.

Despite all the questions surrounding the team and its lackluster 3-0 loss to China last week, Korea earned a convincing 3-1 win over its archrival Japan on Sunday. The win was Korea’s first over Japan since the 1-0 win on May 31, 2003.

Korea gave up the opening goal after Kang Min-soo committed a foul on Japanese defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka in a set piece in the 22nd minute of the match. Japan scored off the penalty kick but Lee Dong-gook answered with a penalty kick goal of his own in the 32nd minute. Lee Seung-yeol added a goal in the 38th minute of the match and Kim Jae-sung put the game out of reach with the team’s third goal of the match in the 50th minute.

Korea had a record of three draws and one loss since the win in May 2003. With the win, Korea finished in second place at the four-nation tourney with a record of two wins and one loss while China finished with two wins and one tie to win the tourney.

Korea will play in its final friendly match on home soil on May 16 against Ecuador.

By Jason Kim []
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