The 23-man squad has been named and now South Korea’s preparations for the Asian Cup and first round games against Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Indonesia in next month’s continental competition are ready to begin.
National team coach Pim Verbeek sprung few surprises at KFA HQ last Friday afternoon. The big issue was whether strikers Lee Dong-gook and Ahn Jung-hwan would be selected. Lee was, Ahn wasn’t.
So almost five years to the day since Ahn scored that famous golden Judi Online goal which sent Italy crashing out of the 2002 World Cup and South Korea to the quarter-finals, his international career was almost certainly seemingly ended. At 31 and struggling to find a starting place with K-League team Suwon Samsung Bluewings, the way back to the top looks to be a tough one for the well-traveled striker.
“Perhaps after the Asian Cup he can get back to his normal level but at this moment we never see him play,” Verbeek told the Korea Herald. “He is not playing and not scoring goals. He is struggling – he doesn’t have the confidence of his club coach so there’s no reason to choose him.”
With a number of Korea’s most experienced players injured, Verbeek admitted that the inactivity which has caused Ahn’s absence was a problem.
“If there’s somebody regretting that situation then it is me. I still think that the Ahn Jung-hwan we know can make a difference.
“I don’t know if it because of five months out of football, the way they play in Korea, the mental state he is in after playing so many years in Europe and then coming back to Korea – I don’t know,” continued the Dutchman. “The only thing I can do is watch the matches, look at the players and pick the best ones.
“I am 100% sure he will understand.”
The absence of Ahn’s 2002 and 2006 team-mates Park Ji-sung, Lee Young-pyo and Seol Ki-hyeon from the roster was expected but still unfortunate. The English Premier League stars are all recovering from surgery …