Koo Ja-cheol out for Uzbek qualifier

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Koo Ja-cheol out for Uzbek qualifier

Coach Choi Kang-hee said yesterday that the absence of Koo Ja-cheol will not have a major impact on the national football team’s upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifier against Uzbekistan.

Choi and his team left for Uzbekistan yesterday afternoon, a week ahead of Korea’s third match in the final round of the Asian qualifiers for the 2014 tournament in Brazil. Several hours earlier, Koo, a midfielder playing for German Bundesliga club FC Augsburg, was confirmed unfit for play after sustaining an injury in a club match on Sunday.

“I am sorry that he couldn’t play for us, but as we have sufficient players to play instead of him, I am not too concerned,” Choi told reporters at Incheon International Airport before boarding the plane.

Koo, the captain of Korea’s Olympic football team, contributed to the team’s bronze medal at the London Games last month, scoring Korea’s second goal in a 2-0 win against Japan.

He suffered a ligament rupture in his right ankle, according to officials of the Korean Football Association, the country’s governing body of the sport, and will need at least six weeks to recover.

Choi said that he couldn’t select Koo’s replacement given the time needed to acquire visas for the trip.

Last Wednesday, Choi announced the 23-member roster against Uzbekistan, which he dubbed the best team he has put together yet in Korea’s bid to earn an eighth consecutive berth to the World Cup.

The team had nine overseas players before Koo exited, including Ki Sung-yueng of Swansea City, Park Chu-young of Celta Vigo, Lee Chung-yong of Bolton and Kim Bo-kyung of Cardiff City.

A total of 16 players, including two J-Leaguers, Hwang Seok-ho of Hiroshima and Kim Jin-hyeon of Osaka, left yesterday. Six other players in Europe and the Middle East, including Lee Jung-soo of Al Saad and Park Joo-ho of Basel, will join them today in Uzbekistan.

Korea is ahead of Uzbekistan with seven wins, one loss and one draw in the previous matches including a 4-2 win in a friendly held in Jeonju in February. The match is set for Sept. 11.

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]
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