South Korea picks Premier League stars for World Cup warmups
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea has included experienced English Premier League stars in its squad for World Cup warmup games against Colombia and Serbia next month in a bid to end a run of poor form.
The South Koreans qualified in September for next year’s World Cup in Russia, but only just squeezed into the sport’s marquee tournament for a ninth successive time on the back of one win in 2017 — against Syria in March.
Coach Shin Tae-yong has picked a 23-man squad as he looks for his first win since taking over in July. October friendlies against Russia and Morocco ended in defeats.
“I admit we haven’t been playing well of late ... I believe this is the best team I’ve had as head coach.” Shin told a news conference on Monday. “We have to test ourselves.”
The recent run of results has sent South Korea, the 2002 World Cup semifinalists, tumbling to No. 62 in FIFA’s world rankings — Colombia is ranked 13th and Serbia is 38th.
Better news for Shin is that captain Ki Sung-yeung has returned to full fitness for Swansea City in the Premier League. The midfielder played 90 minutes as Swansea lost 2-1 to Arsenal on Saturday and will return to the national team for the first time since June.
Star attacker Son Heung-min was in action for Tottenham Hotspur in its 1-0 loss at Manchester United.
Lee Chung-yong of Crystal Palace and Ji Dong-won of German team FC Augsberg were omitted from the squad.
South Korea hosts Colombia in Suwon, just south of Seoul, on Nov. 10 and takes on Serbia in the southern city of Ulsan four days later.
Shin’s squad will end the year with the East Asian Championships, a four-nation round-robin tournament that features host Japan as well as China and North Korea in December.