SEOUL (AFP) – South Korea on Monday named its final 23-man squad for next month’s Asian Cup in Australia, selecting a side that leans heavily on players from overseas leagues.
Some 17 members of the national side play abroad, including six based in Europe, while just one – Lee Jeong-Hyeop – has no international experience.
Lee, a little-known forward for South Korea’s military club Sangju Sangmu, was selected as one of the three forwards, after domestic league strikers Lee Dong-Gook and Kim Shin-Wook were ruled out due to injuries.
Coach Uli Stielike said Lee would act as the “target man” on the front line despite his lack of experience.
“My philosophy in selecting players is that their health comes before everything,” said the German coach, who took charge of the national team in October.
Stielike said he picked “versatile” players who could play multiple positions, adding that some defenders like Park Joo-Ho of Mainz 05 and Jang Hyeon-Soo of Guangzhou R&F will play as “defensive midfielders”.
Six of the squad’s players are based in Europe, including Swansea City midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng, Bolton Wanderers’ Lee Chung-Yong, and Bayer Leverkusen winger Son Heung-Min, who has netted 11 goals in club competitions this season.
Defender Cha Du-Ri, who plans to retire from international play after the Asian Cup, is the oldest member of the team at 34.
Park Chu-Young, who has gone six matches without a goal for his Saudi Arabian club Al-Shabab, was left off the side.
South Korea is grouped with Australia, Oman and Kuwait in the Asian Cup, and will take on Saudi Arabia on January 4 in Sydney for a final tune-up match.