Team Korea will field big guns against Croatia

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Team Korea will field big guns against Croatia


Korean national football coach Choi Kang-hee, front right, and his players pose along with new Korea Football Association chairman Chung Mong-gyu at Incheon International Airport before leaving for London yesterday. Korea will play a tune-up match with Croatia on Feb. 6. [NEWSIS]

Korean national football coach Choi Kang-hee said yesterday he will start many Europe-based players in a tune-up against Croatia next week.

Choi took eight members of his team to London yesterday for the match next Wednesday at Craven Cottage. The overseas players will join the team by Monday.

Seven players in Europe, where regular seasons are under way, made it to the 24-member roster announced Jan. 21, including Son Heung-min of Hamburg SV, who scored his seventh goal of the season Saturday.

“The players from Europe are already in form, but the K-League players are building up their physical condition through workouts,” Choi told a media conference before the flight to London. The K-League season ended Dec. 2. “Perhaps we will play focused on Europe-based players,” he said.

Some of those players have shown improvement of late. Swansea City’s Ki Sung-yueng had all three of his assists for the season this month, helping the Premier League club advance to the League Cup final Feb. 24.

Kim Bo-kyung of Cardiff City scored his second goal of the season Jan. 19 and was named to the Team of the Week in the Championship League for the first time. Cardiff City is on top of the standings, raising the prospect of being promoted to the Premier League next season.

Lee Chung-yong of the English second-division Bolton Wanderers scored five goals in 25 appearances, tying his season high set in his debut with the Wanderers in 2008-2009.

In Germany, Koo Ja-cheol of Augsburg scored his third goal of the season Jan. 20 during his first game with Ji Dong-won, who had just been signed from Sunderland. German media praised Ji’s debut, calling him a new face of the team and expressing hope the team can exit the Bundesliga relegation zone.

Park Chu-young, loaned from Arsenal, was impressive with three goals in his debut for Celta Vigo in Spain, but he has not scored since Nov. 30.

“Our players currently playing in Europe are putting up good performances,” Choi said. “The national team is clearly different from what it was last year.”

Coming off a 1-0 loss to Iran in October and a 2-2 draw at Uzbekistan in September, Korea will resume its remaining four-game campaign for the 2014 FIFA World Cup with a home match against Qatar on March 13.

Choi also mentioned Yun Suk-young, who recently moved from the K-League’s Chunnam Dragons to the Queens Park Rangers in the English Premier League, saying that playing in Europe will be a good for him.

Yun, who also is on Choi’s team, returned to Korea yesterday to get a job visa that will complete his transfer to QPR. It is not certain if he will be able to play in the tune-up match. It could take several days to get the job visa issued and he may have to skip the match, according to Korea Football Association officials.

By Moon Gwang-lip []
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