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Korea announces 2014 World Cup squad

Posted May. 09, 2014 05:41,   


“I was happy and relieved at the same time.”

His voice over the phone was calmer than expected. It must have not been easy for him to get to sleep the day before the World Cup squad announcement because of the nightmare he had four years ago. But when Head Coach Hong Myung-bo called his name "Lee Keun-ho" following Koo Ja-cheol (FSV Mainz 05) as forwards, the South Korean forward was so relieved. The head coach unveiled the roster for the 2014 World Cup on Thursday and it was broadcast live on TV. Lee must be very excited at the result, but he said in a very calm manner.

Lee Keun-ho finally goes to the World Cup, which he has dreamed of for his lifetime. In 2010, Lee was eliminated from the roster during the national football team’s training in Austria ahead of the World Cup finals. Then, he threw his uniform in a trash bin and left the camp. In fact, he was in a very good condition during the World Cup preliminaries and significantly contributed to Korea winning a ticket to the finals. Unfortunately, he fell into a slump later and then-head coach Huh Jung-moo did not choose him for the final squad. He failed to make it to the finals and had to fly back to Seoul.

“I cannot but remember what happened four years ago. So, I couldn’t have the final entry announcement off my mind. I have looked forward to playing in the World Cup for a long time. I am very happy.”

Lee Keun-ho, a forward of Sangju Sangmu FC (Korean military football club) who is training in Sangmu’s camp in Mungyeong, said this opportunity given by Coach Hong Myung-bo as a “precious opportunity.” He said, “I have really prepared a lot. But I will be a player who can contribute to the team. Whether it is small or big, I will do my best to do what I am asked to. Because I have suffered painful experiences, I will leave no regret for this World Cup.”

After the warm-up match with Greece in March, Lee got a swollen left knee. Even a surgery was considered, but fortunately he was fully recovered through rest and rehabilitation. Park Hang-seo, the head coach of Sangju Sangmu FC also helped him recover. Park said, “I knew how passionate Lee Keun-ho is about the World Cup. So, I refrained from fielding him in K-League matches and gave him a break. Except for goal keepers, only three players who are currently playing in the K-League are included in the final roster. The fact that Lee is one of the three is an honor for our team.” Park also added with a smile, “Keun-ho has a strong military spirit, so he will do well in the World Cup.”

Corporal Lee who is to be promoted to sergeant this June has showed great performance in the K-League since last year. He scored 15 goals in last year’s K-League Challenge and became the top scorer of the league. Thanks to his excellent performances, his team Sangmu advanced to the K-League Classic. To many young athletes who have not finished their military duties, he recommended entering the Sangmu FC by saying, “I was very concerned about whether I could get proper training before joining the military. But Sangmu’s facilities and systems are so good that athletes can have good training. Also, playing football and fulfilling military duty at the same time makes one’s mind more matured.”

Lee Keun-ho graduated from Mansubuk Elementary School, Bupyeong Middle School and Bupyeong High School. He made his professional debut at the Incheon United in 2005. Later, he transferred to the Daegu FC and then to Ulsan Hyundai in 2012, becoming one of the top ranked forwards in the K-League. In 2012, he scored eight goals and helped his team win the championship at the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Champions League, which garnered him a league MVP and the AFC Footballer of the Year.