Four German-based players join pre-World Cup camp

Four Germany-based South Korean footballers recently named to the World Cup squad reported to the national team training camp on Tuesday, ready to turn their focus to the summer’s big tournament.

Bayer Leverkusen attacker Son Heung-min headlined the list of the four Bundesliga players to arrive at the National Football Center in Paju, just north of Seoul, a day after head coach Hong Myung-bo opened the weeks-long preparation for the World Cup with nine players on hand

Defensive back Hong Jeong-ho and midfielder Ji Dong-won, teammates on FC Augsburg, and forward Koo Ja-cheol of FSV Mainz 05 also entered the NFC. The Bundesliga season ended last weekend.

Son, 21, is one of the youngest members of the 23-man squad assembled by head coach Hong Myung-bo, but could be the country’s most lethal offensive weapon in Brazil, where South Korea will face Russia, Algeria and Belgium in Group H.

The dynamic winger scored his 10th Bundesliga goal of the season in the season finale against Werder Bremen last weekend, helping Bayer Leverkusen to a 2-1 win that secured a spot in the playoff round for next season’s UEFA Champions League. He hit double figures in goals in each of the past two Bundesliga seasons, having scored a dozen for his previous club, Hamburger SV, last season.

Son said he is prepared to put his successful club season behind him and shift his focus to the World Cup.

“It’s been a very gratifying season because we will get to enter the playoff for the Champions League,” Son told reporters upon arriving at the NFC. “But I am not going to get caught up in the excitement. I am going to concentrate on getting ready for the World Cup. I don’t want to have any regrets.

Son dismissed the notion that he will be the go-to guy on offense in Brazil.

“It doesn’t matter who scores in what games, as long as the team wins,” Son said. “This team has a lot of talented players. As long as we give our best, they will score some great goals.”

Koo Ja-cheol, 25, is a likely candidate to be the captain in Brazil. He has served in the same role at every international competition that Hong Myung-bo has coached so far: the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup, the 2010 Asian Games and the 2012 London Olympics.혻혻혻혻

The versatile forward can play on both flanks or behind the center forward. He also has a nose for the goal, attested by his tournament-leading five goals at the 2011 Asian Cup.

Prior to the 2010 World Cup, Koo joined the national team for an overseas camp but failed to make the final squad. He said he has grown over the past four years, thanks in no small part to his stint in the top German league.

“I’ve learned a lot through ups and downs,” he said. “I’ve grown more confident having competed against European opponents. I can proudly say I haven’t wasted my time (since 2010).”

Hong Jeong-ho and Ji Dong-won, FC Augsburg teammates, will also be making their World Cup debuts. Hong, 24, will likely be the starting centerback on a young defensive corps, but said he and his teammates can more than compensate for inexperience with their skills and teamwork.

Ji is coming off a disappointing season in which he netted just one goal in 19 games. He said he is grateful for the chance to represent the country and that he hopes to turn his year around at the World Cup. (Yonhap)