Koo, Lee have best shot at being named captain

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Koo, Lee have best shot at being named captain

The final 23-man roster of the Korea national football team for the 2014 Brazil World Cup has been determined, but there is one more important decision Coach Hong Myung-bo must make: appointing a captain of the Taeguek Warriors.

When Hong was asked about who will take that role when the roster was announced Thursday at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi, he said, “I will make the decision around the time the team starts training.”

Football insiders speculate the role will go to either Koo Ja-cheol (FC Mainz) or Lee Chung-yong (Bolton Wanderers).

Koo perfectly understands Hong’s emphasis on teamwork and aggressive midfield pressure. When Hong coached the U-20 team (2009), in the Guangzhou Asian Games (2010), and in the 2012 London Olympics, Koo was the man with the captain’s yellow armband.

It would not be a surprise if Koo wears it again in Brazil.

The friendly match with Switzerland in November was Lee’s first time as a captain in his career. His character is somewhat similar to that of Park Ji-sung of PSV Eindhoven, who was captain of the national team in 2008 at age 27. Like Park, Lee isn’t a big talker, but his dominant performance and contributions on the pitch naturally push his teammates to play their best. Since Park retired from the national team, Lee has been the ace player.

When Korea had a friendly match with Brazil, Lee showed his leadership, especially on defense as he didn’t hesitate to make aggressive plays on FC Barcelona star Neymar.

“At the time, many players hesitated to aggressively defend the Brazilian star because they knew they might be criticized if they made physical contact,” said a national team source. “Then Lee stepped up to take that job for the team.”

His best friend Ki Sung-yueng wants Lee to be captain. “He’s just like Park [Ji-sung],” Ki said. “There is no one who can do that job like he can, for sure.”

BY KWON SANG-SOO, PARK RIN [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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