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Football coach Hong to stick to principle when building national team


INCHEON, Sept. 23 (Yonhap) -- National football head coach Hong Myung-bo reiterated on Monday he will build his roster only with players in regular action on their respective pro clubs, insisting that he won't make any exceptions for certain players.

Hong returned home following his 10-day trip to England, where he watched and met South Korean players in English leagues.

Four South Koreans are with English Premier League clubs: Kim Bo-kyung of Cardiff City, Ji Dong-won and Ki Sung-yueng of Sunderland, and Park Chu-young of Arsenal.

Two more are playing in the second-tier Football League Championship: Lee Chung-yong of Bolton Wanderers and Yun Suk-young of Queens Park Rangers (QPR).

During Hong's stay, Park didn't even dress for Arsenal, and yet his status has become a hot potato in South Korean football.

The talented 28-year-old forward has wasted the better part of the past two years on the Arsenal bench and has yet to suit up for Hong, who became the national team bench boss in June.

Park has appeared in only one Premier League match since joining Arsenal in 2011. He spent a mediocre 2012-13 season on a loan to Celta Vigo in Spain. He has yet to play for Arsenal after rejoining the London-based club before the ongoing season.

Although Park, who has 23 goals in 61 international matches, could help alleviate scoring woes for South Korea, Hong said Park would first have to start getting on the pitch on a regular basis.

"There is no change to my principle that I will not select players who are confined to the bench (on their pro teams)," Hong told reporters at Incheon International Airport. "The national team doesn't have a lot of time to train (ahead of international matches)."

In Hong's six matches, South Korea has scored six times, but four of the goals came against the underdog Haiti, with two coming on penalties. No front-line striker has found the back of the net, as the country has managed just one win against two losses and three draws.

Hong has had no success with domestic league strikers, such as Cho Dong-geon and Kim Dong-seob, and has come under growing pressure to name Park to his team for South Korea's friendlies against Brazil and Mali next month.

Proponents for Park's inclusion argue that Hong should give the player a chance to train and play at a high level for the national team, which may also lead to more playing time with Arsenal.

The coach, however, stressed that his philosophy won't change case by case.

"The most important thing is how much the player wants to play for the country," Hong added. "I confirmed his strong desire to get back on the national team. He has plenty of experience to overcome difficulties that he's facing today."

Hong has applied the same, what-have-you-done-lately logic when he left off midfielder Ki Sung-yueng from his first six international matches.

Though Ki has played more than 50 games for South Korea and was a key member of the 2010 FIFA World cup squad, the 24-year-old spent the early part of the Premier League season confined to the Swansea City bench. He had reportedly been in the doghouse of the team's management, before he was shipped to Sunderland on a season-long loan.

Ki has made two straight starts for Sunderland, but the club on Sunday sacked head coach Paolo Di Canio, who brought in Ki and gave him regular minutes, after opening the season with a five-game winless skid.

"Ki is getting better, but he's still not where he once was," Hong said of the versatile midfielder. "I will keep an eye on him, but I haven't yet decided whether to name him to the team to face Brazil."

South Korea will host the five-time World Cup champion on Oct. 12 and then host Mali three days later.

Hong said the match against Brazil will serve as a good test for his players and will help them learn what they need to do to prepare for next year's World Cup in Brazil.

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