S. Korean World Cup soccer roster to be announced Thursday

May 5, 2014
The South Korean national soccer team was introduced in one Brazilian newspaper recently as well organized squad with dangerous counter-attack capabilities. (Yonhap)

The South Korean national soccer team was introduced in one Brazilian newspaper recently as a well organized squad with dangerous counter-attack capabilities. (Yonhap)

Hong Myung-bo, manager of Korea’s national football team, listens to a question at a news conference at Incheon International Airport on Friday. Hong returned from Athens, following Korea’s 2-0 win over Greece inan international friendly on Thursday that represented the country’s last tune-up before he announces his roster for the World Cup in Brazil. (Yonhap)

Hong Myung Bo

By Kim Tong-hyung

Korea coach Hong Myung-bo will announce his 23-man World Cup roster Thursday (KST), much earlier than FIFA’s June 2 deadline, the Korea Football Association (KFA) said Friday.

Hong, who says he has nearly finalized the team he will take to Brazil, decided to pick his squad quickly to remove the air of uncertainty and give players more time to prepare before opening his training camp on May 12.

Korea, making its eighth consecutive World Cup appearance, is grouped with Algeria, Belgium and Russia in Group H. Hong’s men will open their tournament against the Russians on June 17.

Hong seems to have a clear idea about who his starters are at most positions and has narrowed his key substitutes over the past few months. The number of seats left on the plane to Brazil is probably less than four, which leaves a handful of lower-tier players in K League Classic competing ferociously to show they deserve to play in the planet’s biggest sporting event.

Park Chu-young, the little-used Watford forward, is penned in as the target man in Hong’s favored 4-2-3-1 formation, although towering Ulsan Hyundai striker Kim Shin-wook may get his minutes as well.

Hong has a wealth of attackers in the midfield, with Son Heung-min (Bayer Leverkusen) and Lee Chung-yong (Bolton) manning the flanks and Koo Ja-cheol (Mainz) backing the striker in the hole.

Hong seems to have settled on Ki Sung-yueng (Sunderland) and Han Kook-young (Kashiwa Reysol) as his central midfield axis, although the form of Ki, battling tendinitis in his right knee, warrants concern.

While the central defense partnership of Hong Jeong-ho (Augsburg) and Kim Young-gwon (Guangzhou Evergrande) seems close to untouchable, there is a lack of consistent options at fullback.

Jung Sung-ryong (Suwon Bluewings) remains Hong’s first choice for goalkeeper as Kim Seung-gyu (Ulsan Hyundai) waits on the bench.

Ji Dong-won (Augsburg), Kim Bo-kyung (Cardiff City) and Lee Keun-ho (Sangju Sangmu) will be expected to provide firepower off the bench. Lee Myung-joo (Pohang Steelers), Ha Dae-sung (Beijing Guoan) and Park Jong-woo (Guangzhou Evergrande) are competing for the back-up central midfield jobs.

Korea will host Tunisia on May 28 in Seoul in its final pre-World Cup match at home. It will fly to Miami two days later to set up camp there before flying to Brazil on June 12.