4 dropped from World Cup squad

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4 dropped from World Cup squad

National team manager Huh Jung-moo whittled down his provisional 30-man lineup for the World Cup yesterday, dropping four home-based players.

With the cuts, Huh has 26 men remaining on his roster and will make the final three cuts in time for FIFA’s June 2 deadline.

Cho Won-hee and Kang Min-soo of the Suwon Bluewings, Kim Chi-woo of FC Seoul and Hwang Jae-won of the Pohang Steelers will not see action at the games in South Africa.

“It was not an easy decision. We made the cuts on the basis that we would allocate two players per each position,” Huh said at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi.

“The guys we left off the team are all good players, but we favored players who can play more than one position.”

Kang and Cho had not been in top condition and Kim had been slow to recover from an injury. Hwang, who was competing for a spot on center defense, was cut after he failed to live up to expectations during the friendly match against Ecuador on Sunday night at Seoul World Cup Stadium.

The defense selections were no surprise, with the exception of center Kim Hyung-il of the Pohang Steelers, who made the squad in place of his teammate, Hwang. Hwang is known as an all-around player with leadership skills, but he failed to cover his assignment on two occasions on Sunday.

“Hwang is a player with a lot of upside, but for some strange reason, he made some big errors whenever he played for the national team,” explained Huh.

As expected, all 12 overseas-based players made the final cut. Two of the most notable players on the bubble who made the team were Lee Dong-gook and Ahn Jung-hwan.

Lee can make his return to the World Cup for the first time since the 1998 event in France. As a 19-year-old, Lee saw limited playing time in France but was considered a promising forward. His long absence from the World Cup started when he was cut from the 2002 squad.

He was considered a lock to make the 2006 Germany World Cup squad, but suffered a knee injury leading up to the big event.

Lee is not in the clear yet, as he suffered a hamstring injury on Sunday and is expected to be out for three weeks.

“We heard his injury is not all that serious. We’ll keep an eye on him until the June 2 deadline when we have to submit the roster entry to FIFA,” said Huh.

“Lee is a player we must have on the team.”

Another player who must recover by June 2 to preserve his spot is Kim Jae-sung. The midfielder is tabbed to back up Lee Chung-yong in the right wing position, but he’s suffering from a right ankle injury.

“Kim didn’t damage any ligaments or bones. He’ll be able to return to team practice when the swelling goes down,” Huh said.

Also included on the team are a trio of youngsters - Lee Seung-yeoul, Kim Bo-kyung and Koo Ja-cheol - who played a crucial role on the under-20 squad’s quarterfinal run in Egypt last year.

As expected, veteran goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae maintained his starting job and Jung Sung-ryong will serve as the team’s backup.

The national team will travel to Saitama, Japan, for a friendly on May 24 before setting up training camp in Austria starting on May 25. Korea will play Belarus on May 30 and Spain on June 3.

The key for the players who made the cut will be to remain healthy and avoid any injuries prior to the FIFA deadline for submitting the final 23-man roster which is set for June 2 at 7 a.m. Korean time.

By Jason Kim, Jang Chi-hyeok [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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