April 14, 2006 18:03
The Korean national football team's striker Lee Dong-gook will be unable to play in the World Cup in Germany, sending the team into a frenzied search for a replacement two months ahead of the championship.
Pohang Steelers, Lee's home team, said doctors at Sporeg rehabilitation center found that an injury to the athlete's right knee had severely damaged his ACL (Anterior cruciate ligament) and recommended surgery.
After sustaining the injury in a domestic match on April 5, Lee had hoped top recover in time for the World Cup and flew to Germany on Wednesday for a more detailed diagnosis. But recovery will take nearly six months, making it impossible for him to take part in the World Cup, which starts on June 10. Pohang said Lee has yet to decide where to have the operation and whether to stay in Germany for rehabilitation or return to Korea.
With the announcement of the final 23-player lineup for the World Cup due on May 11, the Korea Football Association passed on the news of the athlete to national team manager Dick Advocaat and has embarked on a mission to find a replacement.
Ahn Jung-hwan, who plays for German Bundesliga club Duisburg, and Cho Jae-jin, of Shimizu S-Pulse in Japan's J-League, are seen as potential replacement forwards. Ahn's stellar performance in the 2002 World Cup, where he scored two goals, is a strong point, but he has been struggling to maintain a key role in his team and it is unclear if he still has the physique and reflexes needed.
Cho Jae-jin stands out in ball control. He has lately been on top form, scoring five goals in the J-league this season. His weakness is a lack of experience in big matches. Park Chu-young of FC Seoul may also have the power to play center striker.
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