Head coach Choi Kang-hee unveiled a team of 23 players, with 11 of them playing professionally overseas. Park, of Celta Vigo in Spain, wasn’t one of the 11.
He hasn’t scored in Spain since November last year and remains stuck on three goals for the season.
|Korea’s head coach Choi Kang-hee announces a team of 23 players for the upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifier, during a press conference Monday. (Yonhap News)|
South Korea is scheduled to host Qatar at Seoul World Cup Stadium on March 26. After playing four out of eight games in the final stage of the Asian qualification round, South Korea is in second place of Group A with seven points. Uzbekistan leads the group with eight points but it has played one more game than South Korea.
Iran and Qatar also have seven points apiece after five games, but South Korea leads them on goal differential. South Korea must finish in the top two to earn an automatic spot at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. A third-place finish will relegate the country to a playoff.
In place of Park, Choi named the lanky forward Kim Shin-wook of Ulsan Hyundai Tigers, a local K League Classic cub. The 196-centimeter-tall Kim will play alongside striker Lee Dong-gook, one of K League Classic’s premier goal scorers.
Lee’s lack of chemistry with Park up front has been cited as a major reason for South Korea’s recent struggles. The country is winless in its last two World Cup qualifiers and two friendlies.
Choi called the Qatar match “a must-win game” for South Korea, and also the most important one of the remaining four games. He also said there wasn’t any specific reason that he didn’t name Park to the team.
“We build our roster based on our opponent on a game-by-game basis,” the coach said. “I think we have plenty of winning combinations in midfield and upfront.”
Before South Korea’s friendly match against Croatia last month, Choi had said he wasn’t going to make any changes to the team. Then South Korea lost the game 4-0, forcing Choi to eat his words.
“After the loss, I felt we needed to start anew,” Choi said.
“When the opponent plays a defensive-minded game, we have to try different things offensively. We’re also prepared for a situation when we’re trailing and have to play catch-up.”
Choi has selected a trio of young guns based in Germany’s top-flight league, Bundesliga. Son Heung-min of Hamburger SV has netted nine goals so far to emerge as a highly sought-after young talent in European football. Koo Ja-cheol and Ji Dong-won, teammates on Augsburg, recently combined for a goal and an assist in the same game.
Choi said he’s counting on Son to be the offensive sparkplug for the national team that he has been for Hamburger SV. Despite his professional success, Son has only one goal in a dozen international games for South Korea.
“Son is enjoying a great season, but a national team doesn’t operate based on a single player,” Choi said. “He has to make adjustments and fit into our system. He hasn’t been as good on the national team as he has on his pro club. It’s his job to turn things around.”
Among other overseas-based players, Ki Sung-yueng, midfielder for the Premier League club Swansea City, and Lee Chung-yong, midfielder for the second division English club Bolton Wanderers, also made the team.
The defense will feature Yun Suk-young, a recent signee with the Premier League side Queens Park Rangers, and Kwak Tae-hwi, who joined Al-Shabab in Saudi Arabia this offseason.