South Korea national football team head coach Paulo Bento has many things to deal with after a disappointing elimination at the 2019 Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup, but one specific task will be to fill the void left by two veteran midfielders who decided to end their international careers last month.
After South Korea’s quarterfinals exit at the Asian Cup, Ki Sung-yueng and Koo Ja-cheol announced they will no longer play for the Taeguk Warriors after more than 10 years of service.
Ki, 30, had hinted at national team retirement after the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but decided to compete until the 2019 AFC Asian Cup at Bento’s request. The Newcastle United midfielder will end his international career with 10 goals in 110 caps.
This file photo taken Dec. 31, 2018, shows South Korea’s Ki Sung-yueng (center) and Koo Ja-cheol (right) clapping the fans after an international friendly match against Saudi Arabia at Baniyas Stadium in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates. (Yonhap)
Koo, who turns 30 next month, said he originally thought about quitting the national team after playing friendly matches in Australia in November. But he also postponed that decision to the Asian Cup following Bento’s persuasion. The FC Augsburg midfielder had 19 goals in 76 caps for South Korea.
Ki and Koo, who both made their international debut in 2008, have been core players for South Korea. In particular, both were pivotal in South Korea’s winning bronze at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Koo was known for his ball-control skills and attacking abilities in the middle. He was the top scorer at the 2011 Asian Cup.
Ki was South Korea’s midfield orchestrator with his passing skills and vision. He is also a three-time Korea Football Association Player of the Year. (Yonhap)