Jeonbuk star Lee returns to national team roster

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Jeonbuk star Lee returns to national team roster

With Lee Dong-gook on the national football team, Korea can play with a variety of attacking strategies, according to head coach Cho Kwang-rae.

Cho decided to bring Lee back to the national team on Friday, giving the 32-year-old a chance to represent the nation on the pitch for the first time in 15 months. Lee’s last match for Korea was on June 26, 2010, against Uruguay at the Round of 16 of the World Cup.

Lee will replace Cerezo Osaka midfielder Kim Bo-kyung, who suffered a broken nose during the AFC Champions League quarterfinals against Lee’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors last Tuesday.

Lee could get on the pitch during this Friday’s friendly against Poland and could also play in the third round Asian qualifiers of the 2014 World Cup against the United Arab Emirates on Oct. 11.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about whether to pick Lee or not,” Cho told Yonhap News Agency over the weekend. “But we need a different type of striker, so I selected Lee.”

Lee is currently having a phenomenal season in the K-League, tallying 14 goals and 14 assists in 26 matches. With his club Jeonbuk leading the K-League table, he is first in assists and third in goal scoring in the league.

The former Middlesbrough and Werder Bremen striker also netted nine goals in the AFC Champions League, four of which came from Tuesday’s match against Cerezo Osaka.

“What made my mind was the match against Cerezo Osaka,” said Cho, who watched Tuesday’s match at Jeonju World Cup Stadium. “I wasn’t sure if he has a will to play for the national team again, but assistant coach Seo Jung-won told me he is ready.”

Football pundits claim that Lee has been given the chance because exiting forwards haven’t delivered impressive performances recently.

Cho has been using team captain Park Chu-young and 20-year-old prodigy Ji Dong-who, who are playing for Arsenal and Sunderland in the English Premier League, respectively. However, with both EPL players getting minimal time on the pitch with their clubs, Lee’s consistent success in the K-League has caught Cho’s eyes.

“Lee’s goal hunting sense is on rolling pace, and his movement is sharp,” Cho said. “Not only is he getting easy goals, but he is creating chances by himself and scoring goals.”

Also with Lee, Cho said Korea can play with a more diverse attacking strategy.

Lee is expected to play against Sangju Sangmu Phoenix in his club’s K-League match today before joining the national team’s first team training at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi, tomorrow.


By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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