3 September 2014 06:03
Lee Dong-Gook is on the verge of earning his 100th international cap for South Korea after he was plucked out of the wilderness.
South Korea are preparing for back-to-back friendly fixtures against Venezuela on Friday and Uruguay three days later, and veteran striker Lee will feature.
Stranded on 99 caps, Lee has not played for the national team since June last year during the final round of Asian qualifying for the World Cup.
However, the 35-year-old Jeonbuk Motors man has been rewarded with a recall by the Korean Football Federation for topping the goalscoring charts in the K. League this season – netting 11 goals in 23 matches.
Should Lee take to the field against the South Americans at Buncheon Sports Complex on Friday, he would join Hong Myung-Bo (136), Lee Woon-Jae (132), Lee Young-Pyo (127), Yoo Sang-Chul (122), Cha Bum-Kun (121), Kim Tae-Young (106), Hwang Sun-Hong (103) and Park Ji-Sung (100) as the only other player to reach the century mark.
Interestingly enough, South Korea will be coach-less for their first game since the World Cup.
The Korean FA were expected to appoint former Netherlands boss Bert van Marwijk, only for negotiations to break down.
A trio of local coaches – Shin Tae-Yong, Park Geon-Ha, and Kim Bong-Soo – will now be tasked of leading South Korea against Venezuela and restoring fans with faith after bowing out in Brazil without a win.
“We’re going up against stronger opponents, but since we’re playing at home, we will try to play attacking football,” Shin said.
“I will stress to the players the value of making sacrifices. If they can demonstrate that, I believe the fans will be behind us.
“After the disappointing World Cup, we need to restore our fans’ trust in football.”
As for Venezuela, who are ranked 28 spots above South Korea in 29th position in the FIFA rankings, they arrive in Asia having not played a match since losing to World Cup participants Honduras in a March friendly.
And Venezuela, unlike South Korea, do have a coach following the arrival of Noel Sanvicente from Zamora.
Sanvicente – the country’s most successful coach at club level with seven league titles – was only appointed in July after Cesar Farias resigned in the wake of Venezuela’s failure to qualify for the World Cup, finishing five points behind fifth-placed Uruguay.
His first match in charge will be in Buncheon and he will have leading striker Salomon Rondon (12 goals in 34 international appearances) at his disposal, while debutants Franco Signorelli and Juan Falcon have also been included.