It’s official: Messi, other Barca stars to play friendly
“As of now, we have received confirmation that Lionel Messi, Bojan Krkic and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will play in the game,” K-League Vice President Kim Jung-nam announced at a press conference yesterday. “Newly acquired Brazilian defender Adriano [Correia] will also play in the game.”
The exhibition match - scheduled for 8 p.m. on Aug. 4 - is being planned in part to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and Spain. While FC Barcelona CEO Joan Oliver back in May promised a quality starting lineup for the friendly, he also mentioned: “The only exception is that with the World Cup coming up, we just never know what might happen.”
With the Cup now in the rear-view mirror, both Barca and Korea are firming up their rosters for the game.
Football fans, however, will still have to wait to see if key members of the Spanish national team - which won the World Cup - such as David Villa, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique will make the trip after a grueling title-winning run.
Fans aren’t the only ones looking forward to the possibility that some of Spain’s big-name players will pay Korea a visit.
“We will play an organized game and work hard to show the strength of the K-League,” said Pohang defender Kim Hyung-il. “As a defender, I am also excited about the possibility of playing in the same game with Carles Puyol, whom I’ve respected as a player from a young age. I want to be able to play in the same game and exchange shirts with him.”
First-time K-League All-Star Jung Sung-ryong, who started in goal for the national team in the 2010 World Cup, is looking forward to a showdown with Messi.
“It’s my first time playing in a K-League All-Star game,” said Jung. “It’s an honor to be selected among the K-League’s very best.
“I did not allow a goal to Messi at the 2010 World Cup, and it would be nice to shut him out again.”
Meanwhile, the final tallies from the All-Star voting period were released yesterday. From July 8 to 23, fans voted on the 11 starting players for the friendly match against FC Barcelona.
Kim Dong-jin, who plays left fullback for the Ulsan Hyundai Horangi, earned the most votes with 70,487. Koo Ja-cheol and Cho Yong-hyung of Jeju United followed Kim with 56,207 and 55,200 votes, respectively.
Choi Kang-hee of Jeonbuk Motors will manage the All-Star squad and will consult with the K-League’s technical committee in selecting 15 reserve players for the game.
“With the Posco Cup semifinals and regular season games remaining, and worries about potential injuries, we have not finalized the remainder of the squad,” Kim said.
“We need confirmation of the availability of Kim Jung-woo from Gwangju Sangmu for the game as well.”
By Jason Kim [firstname.lastname@example.org]