South Korea coach Uli Stielike named a 22-man squad for upcoming friendlies against Jordan and Iran that includes controversial striker Park Chu-young.
Hong Myung-bo, who stepped down after the FIFA World Cup, suffered a large backlash at the time for his selection of Park after previously stating that a player who was not playing regularly at club level would not be selected for the national team.
Hong had faith in the striker despite a lack of playing time at Arsenal or Watford, but he was not rewarded after a series of poor performances at the 2014 World Cup and South Korea’s group stage exit.
But Park’s situation has since changed. After being released by Arsenal, he joined Al Shabab in Saudi Arabia last month and has performed well in the last few games. Yet many fans remain skeptical as to whether the 29-year-old has truly found his form.
Stielike is familiar with the situation: “I know there is a controversy going on. He has scored in Saudi Arabia, but I don’t think it is enough to guarantee him a spot in the Asian Cup,” the German coach said at a press conference.
“These are the last friendly matches before the Asian Cup,” he added. “So this will be the last opportunity for me to see him for myself.”
Though Park has for several months and even years been a disappointment among the Taeguk Warrior faithful, his experience in Europe and in World Cup qualification could aid the team as they look to capture their first Asian Cup since 1960. Regulars Lee Dong-guk and Kim Shin-wook are both injured, and there is a chance that neither players will recover in time for Australia.
South Korea squad for Jordan (November 14) and Iran (November 18) friendlies
GK: Kim Seung-gyu (Ulsan Hyundai), Kim Jin-hyeon (Cerezo Osaka), Jung Sung-ryong (Suwon Bluewings)
DF: Kwak Tae-hwi (Al-Hilal), Kim Young-gwon (Guangzhou Evergrande), Kim Jin-Su (Hoffenheim), Kim Chang-soo (Kashiwa Reysol), Park Joo-ho (Mainz 05), Jang Hyun-soo (Guangzhou R&F), Cha Du-ri (FC Seoul), Hong Jeong-ho (Augsburg)
MF: Koo Ja-cheol (Mainz 05), Ki Sung-yueng (Swansea City), Kim Min-woo (Sagan Tosu), Nam Tae-hee (Lekhwiya), Son Heung-min (Bayer Leverkusen), Lee Chung-yong (Bolton Wanderers), Han Kyo-won (Jeonbuk Motors), Han Kook-young (Qatar)
FW: Park Chu-young (Al-Shabab, Lee Keun-ho (El-Jaish), Cho Young-cheol (Qatar)