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Hellas Verona attacker enjoys competing for nat'l football team starting spot

Hellas Verona attacker Lee Seung-woo said Sunday competition for national football team starting spots is making him a better player as he eyes more international action for South Korea.

Lee earned his 10th cap for South Korea when he played against Bolivia in a friendly match on Friday. He will try to make his 11th international appearance when South Korea take on Colombia in Seoul on Tuesday.

Lee, an FC Barcelona youth product, has been struggling to get playing time since head coach Paulo Bento took over the national team helm in August. But against Bolivia, he had more than 30 minutes of action on the pitch after replacing Na Sang-ho in the second half and was able to contribute to the national team's 1-0 win.


"All players want to go out there and play," Lee said to reporters at the National Football Center in Paju, north of Seoul.

"Like others, I want to give good performances in the game and training, and help my team."

Lee, 21, knows competing for national team starting spots is inevitable, but he is looking on the bright side.

"I think it's a competition against myself," he said. "We have so many good players, so just competing with them is already a big help."

Lee was South Korea's youngest player at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. But now he is no longer the youngest man on the national team after Bento called up 18-year-old Lee Kang-in and 19-year-old Kim Jung-min for this month's friendly matches.

With veterans Ki Sung-yueng and Koo Ja-cheol announcing their international retirement after the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup, South Korea are looking for a generation shift in the national team, and Lee is considered one of the players leading the change.

"Following Ki and Koo's exit, all players feel that the national team is becoming younger," he said. "But instead of focusing on a generation shift, I think what's important is your role in the national team."

After edging out Bolivia, South Korea will face Colombia at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Seoul on Tuesday. Lee said he is ready to give all-out efforts like he always has been for the national team.

"Your responsibility and role are different when you come to the national team," he said. "If I play the match with the national team jersey, I want to show all I've got." (Yonhap)