Yonhap News – SEOUL, Veteran South Korean attacker Lee Keun-ho said Wednesday he is eager to beat Iran in the upcoming World Cup qualifying match later this month.
Lee is one of the 26 players selected by new men’s national football team head coach Shin Tae-yong for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers against Iran and Uzbekistan. South Korea will host Iran on Aug. 31 and will take on Uzbekistan five days later on the road.
In the final Asian qualifying round for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, South Korea are currently in second place in Group A, the last automatic qualification spot, with 13 points, just one point above Uzbekistan. Iran have already qualified for the quadrennial tournament after clinching a top spot in the group regardless of their remaining two matches.
South Korea can book a World Cup spot if they beat Iran at home and Uzbekistan lose to China, although it is expected to be a very difficult task for the Taeguk Warriors, which haven’t beaten the Iranians since 2011.
“I feel thankful to be on the national team,” Lee said through his K League Classic club Gangwon FC. “But considering the situation that the national team is facing right now, I feel responsibility rather than excitement. I will work hard so that we can go to the World Cup.”
Lee returned to the national team for the first time in nearly 30 months in June, when he played in a World Cup qualifier against Qatar. Although South Korea lost that match — which turned out to be the last one for former national team boss Uli Stielike — the 32-year-old was acclaimed for his tireless work ethic and energetic performance on the pitch.
Lee said he especially wants to beat Iran, which have been dominant against South Korea in recent years. The 2012 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Player of the Year has yet to experience a victory over Iran in his national team career, picking up only two draws and three losses.
“Iran are the opponents that I have yet to beat,” he said. “We really need to prepare for the match thoroughly. I really want to win this time.”
Lee will also be looking to end his international goal drought. He last scored for South Korea at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil where he bagged an opening goal against Russia in the group stage. He has so far scored 19 goals in 77 matches for South Korea.