SEOUL, Dec 20 (Reuters) - South Korea coach Paulo Bento has recalled forward Ji Dong-won for next month’s Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates, but there were few other surprises in the 23-man squad announced on Thursday.
The group features 14 of the 23 players who travelled to Russia for the World Cup in June, while Bento has also shown faith in those who have helped him build a six-game unbeaten run since taking over in August.
Among the Europe-based contingent, Son Heung-min was named in the squad, but will be unable to play the first two games under an agreement reached between his club Tottenham Hotspur and the Korea Football Association (KFA).
Spurs agreed to release the midfielder for the Asian Games football competition in August and September, which is not on FIFA’s official calendar, on the condition he misses the early part of the Asian Cup.
Bento said Ji had impressed him in September friendlies against Chile and Costa Rica before the FC Augsburg striker was sidelined through injury.
“I know Ji only played for us in our first two matches, but he had good performances,” Yonhap News quoted Bento as saying at a news conference. “He is a player who has adjusted very well to our style of play.”
Ji will back up Gamba Osaka striker Hwang Ui-jo, who has scored three goals in six matches under Bento and was named this year’s KFA Player of the Year.
The Koreans, who finished runners-up to hosts Australia four years ago, start their Group C campaign against the Philippines on Jan. 7, before facing Kyrgyzstan four days later and China on Jan. 16.
Goalkeepers: Kim Seung-gyu, Kim Jin-hyeon, Jo Hyeon-woo.
Defenders: Kim Young-gwon, Jung Seung-hyun, Hong Chul, Lee Yong, Kwon Kyung-won, Kim Min-jae, Kim Jin-soo, Kim Moon-hwan.
Midfielders: Ki Sung-yueng, Jung Woo-young, Ju Se-jong, Koo Ja-cheol, Lee Jae-sung, Hwang Hee-chan, Na Sang-ho, Lee Chung-yong, Son Heung-min, Hwang In-beom.
Forwards: Hwang Ui-jo, Ji Dong-won. (Writing by Peter Rutherford; Editing by)