Kwak ready to rejoin nat’l team

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Kwak ready to rejoin nat’l team

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Kwak Tae-hwi

Kwak Tae-hwi has fully recovered from his knee injury and is set to make his return to the national football team.

Cho Kwang-rae - the newly hired manager of the national football team - has decided to include the defender on his roster for the Aug. 11 international friendly against Nigeria in Suwon, according to various reports.

The central defender, who plays for the Kyoto Purple Sanga in Japan, was one of the favorites to make the final 23-man roster for Korea in the 2010 South Africa World Cup. But he injured his right knee during a warm-up match against Belarus in Kufstein, Austria, on May 30. He was eventually scratched from the final roster and replaced with Kang Min-soo.

Having worked hard on rehabilitating his knee during the World Cup, Kwak started dressing for games with Kyoto on July 25. But the club’s coaching staff decided to wait until a match last Sunday to insert Kwak back into the starting lineup. He played the entire first half of the game.

“Kwak was ready to play the entire game, but the coaching staff wanted to check his physical condition and hence did not push him too hard,” said Kim Hak-ryeol, Kwak’s agent. “He has fully recovered and is in top shape.”

Kwak figures to provide a big boost to the national team’s defense. The 2010 World Cup squad has been heralded as the best Korean team ever assembled, but its defense struggled against attack-minded teams with talented forwards.

Although no immediate changes are planned, manager Cho is intent on looking for ways to bolster the defense. Kwak will likely push national team defenders Cho Yong-hyung and Lee Jung-soo for a spot in the starting lineup, which could improve the play of the entire defense, observers said.

The Korean national team roster is expected to be released this morning.

It likely will include a large number of overseas-based players, as manager Cho sent out requests to 13 Koreans playing abroad to participate in his national team managerial debut match against Nigeria, which will make the trip without most of its top stars.

“We have yet to come across any problems with overseas clubs concerning players participating in the game,” said a Korea Football Association official. “Most of the overseas-based players will play in the game.”

National team captain Park Ji-sung is one of the players who made an early commitment. Park will arrive in Korea on Monday to start preparing for the friendly game.

“If Cho asks me to attend, I will definitely participate in the game,” Park stated to the local press prior to departing Korea for England on July 27. “I’ve never been coached by Cho, so I will need to study his tendencies and strategies closely. We will showcase a brand of football different from what fans have seen in the past.”

Lee Chung-yong with the Bolton Wanderers, another Korean midfielder playing professionally in England, has not provided the national team with a definite answer yet.

“Bolton officials have yet to give a clear answer on whether Lee can participate in the national team match, citing the importance of the Wanderers’ season opener,” said an official with the agency that represents Lee. “But both Lee and Bolton think it’s a game that he should take part in.”


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