Wednesday, November 5, 2008

One Lee Returns For Korea After Ban

Lee Woon-jae is back
It was a year ago when the news started to break. Reporters from Korean internet company Newsis traveled to Jakarta to visit a ‘room salon’ and chat with the female staff. The story soon unfolded of how, during the 2007 Asian Cup held that July, four South Korean national team players visited the establishment on two occasions and drank until dawn - once before a vital game against Bahrain and then once after, following the shock 2-1 defeat.

Goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae, defender Kim Sang-sik and strikers Lee Dong-guk and Woo Sung-young were the senior members of the squad and the anger and disappointment at home was widespread. The Korean FA acted quickly and banned the quartet from national team duty for a year.

Weeks before the ban ended, a debate started. It asked whether there should be a recall for the foursome for the Saudi Arabian 2010 World Cup qualifier on November 19.
Woo, at 34, would not have been in the picture anyway and only made the Asian Cup squad due to a number of injuries. Kim is 33 in January and is one of the K-League’s more accomplished players but with a number of youngsters on the rise, his time is probably over.

Left were the two Lees and only one got in. Lee Woon-jae was the Asian Cup captain and at 35, is the oldest of the lot. He is also still the best goalkeeper in the K-League and hasn’t been adequately replaced. Kim Yong-dae, Kim Young-kwang and Jung Sung-ryeong have all donned the gloves but none have done enough to stop coach Huh Jung-moo pining for old faithful.

After a disappointing 2-2 draw against Jordan in May, Huh told reporters that he wanted Lee back –more than six months ahead of time. "The situations which we allowed the goals weren't understandable," Huh told reporters.

"The coaching staff has been discussing whether to request for Lee's reinstatement for sometime now,'' he said. "Lee has been playing well in the K-League, and those who perform on the pitch should get a chance to represent their country."

Lee had been playing well but it was precisely his performances away from the pitch that stopped him from playing. The KFA refused Huh’s request, leading the boss to pretend that he hadn’t really made it in the first place. Ironically, if Huh had kept quiet for some time longer, the KFA probably would have ended the ban a little early. But after Huh’s comments, the governing body was keen to be seen to be strict.

Lee Dong-guk was in England when the news of the Jakarta high jinks broke and was spared the tearful press conference at KFA house. He was also spared the hours of community service that the others did –though it could be argued that he has already served his time due to his 18 months in England helping other strikers look good -until he came back to the K-League in the summer to join Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma.

That all changed at the start of the month with two goals in two games and with Lee seemingly back in the groove, his name is in the headlines and there are calls for him to be reinstated to the national team. Not just yet however. “Lee has to complete his 40 hours of community service before he can be considered for the South Korean national team,” said a KFA spokesman after the ex-international striker scored a second goal in successive games.

It is not a desperate situation. After seven goals in the last two national team games – four from young hotshot Lee Keun-ho – coach Huh would be sending the wrong message summoning the Lion King so soon. The existing strikers have at least earned the right to lead the line in Riyadh on November 19. There is then a wait of three months for the game in Iran – if Lee continues playing well for Seongnam until the end of the season and completes his community service then there may still be a chance.

But that is not a given. After a poor display and a number of missed chances against title rivals FC Seoul on Sunday and spending Saturday's defeat against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on the bench, it may be some time before the Lion King gets a chance to roar in the shirt of the Taeguk Warriors.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

Bet with Bet 365

World Soccer News

Soccer betting tips

Soccer Books & DVDs

No comments: