Arsenal striker Park Chu-young is going to his third World Cup for South Korea despite concerns about his lack of game time in the Premier League.
Hong Myung-bo picked Park among nine Europe-based players in the 23-man South Korea squad he announced Thursday.
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The South Korea coach unveiled a youthful and predictable squad – with just one player, Kwak Tae-hwi, older than 30.
The selection of Park has been a point of serious national debate in recent, weeks simply because the 28 year-old forward has played so little for Arsenal since his move to London in August 2011.
A fine goal in his first national team appearance in a year against Greece in March helped him make the cut.
”Among Korean forwards, I couldn’t find another attacker to replace Park,” Hong said. ”I have thought long and hard about this selection and decided on the final list just last night.”
Other English Premier League players Ki Sung-yeung and Kim Bo-kyong were also selected.
Park is likely to be the lone striker in Brazil with German-based Son Heung-min expected to appear on the left side of midfield.
There are five survivors from the squad that reached the second round in South Africa 2010, a second ever appearance in the knockout stage in South Korea’s eight World Cup appearances to date. Goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryung, Ki, Kim, Park and Bolton Wanderers midfielder Lee Chung-yong are hoping to at least repeat that feat in June.
South Korea’s best-ever World Cup performance was in 2002, when it cost-hosted the tournament with Japan and reached the semifinals under with Hong as captain. The 45-year-old Hong also coached South Korea’s Under-23 team, containing many of the players in his current squad, to the bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics
”Brazil is going to be the biggest challenge,” said Hong, who took over as coach last July after Choi Kang-hee guided the team through an unimpressive qualification campaign. ”But we go as one team to give the best performance that we can. We have a team with a lot of international experience and we have the players who can show what they can do at the highest level.”
Hong admitted that the position that gave him most problems was at left-back. Park Joo-ho of FC Mainz in Germany returned to South Korea early to try and recover from injury but ran out of time and has been replaced by QPR’s Yun Suk-young.
As Hong promised, there were few surprises in the squad. Pohang Steelers attacking midfielder Lee Myung-joo, perhaps the standout player of the 2014 K-League season, has been overlooked. Of the 20 outfield players in the squad, just three play in the domestic league.
Hong said ”Lee has been excellent for Pohang this season,” but explained that he wanted more cover for defensive midfielders and took Park Jung-woo and Han Kook-young.
The captain will be announced after the squad has gathered. After a training camp in Paju, the South Korea squad plays a friendly against Tunisia at home on May 28 before traveling to Miami for a pre-World Cup training camp that includes a warm-up game with Ghana on June 10.
South Korea starts its Group H campaign against Russia on June 17 before taking on Algeria and Belgium.
Goalkeepers: Jung Sung-ryeong (Suwon Bluewings), Kim Seung-gyu (Ulsan Horang-i), Lee Bom-young (Busan I’Park)
Defenders: Kim Jin-soo (Albirex Niigata, Japan), Yun Suk-young (QPR, England), Kim Young-kwon (Guangzhou Evergrande, China), Hwang Seok-ho (Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Japan), Hong Jeong-ho (Augsburg, Germany), Kwak Tae-hwi (Al Hilal, Saudi Arabia), Lee Yong (Ulsan Horang-i), Kim Chang-soo (Kashiwa Reysol, Japan).
Midfielders: Ki Seung-yeung (Sunderland, England), Ha Dae-sung (Beijing Guoan, China), Han Kook-young (Kashiwa Reysol, Japan), Park Jung-woo (Guangzhou R&F, China), Son Heung-min (Bayer Leverkusen, Germany), Kim Bo-kyoung (Cardiff City, Wales), Lee Chung-yong (Bolton Wanderers, England), Ji Dong-won (Augusburg, Germany).
Forwards: Koo Ja-cheol (Mainz, Germany), Lee Keun-ho (Sangju Sangmu), Park Chu-young (Arsenal, England), Kim Shin-wook (Ulsan Horang-i).