Al Ain: Korea Republic winger Lee Chung-yong is relishing his return to the Finals of the AFC Asian Cup, four years after an injury in the opening game of the tournament curtailed his involvement in his nation’s run to the final.
Lee sustained a fractured leg in Korea Republic’s match-up with Oman in Canberra in 2015, ruling him out of the remainder of the tournament at a time when he was enduring an injury-blighted spell that also had a significant impact on his club career.
But, after a return to form with German second division side Vfl Bochum, Lee has been restored to the flanks of his national side by new coach Paulo Bento and the 30-year-old is quietly confident of more success for him and his teammates.
“I’m really enjoying my game and I hope I’ll be stronger than four years ago,” he told the-AFC.com after their 1-0 win over Kyrgyz Republic on Friday evening.
“I’m looking forward to every game. We’re really trying to fight in every game and one day we hope we’ll be close to the championship.
“I'm happy with the result tonight and the win, but we had many, many chances to score and we made only one of them. But I think we’re getting better and I’m looking forward to the third game against China PR.
“We just have to keep concentrating on creating chances in every game, sometimes it can happen like today. But when you give confidence to everybody then it’s OK, it’s not a big problem.”
Match Highlights - January 11
The Koreans dominated against the Central Asian debutants in Al Ain, hitting the woodwork three times but only had Kim Min-jae’s late first half header to show for their dominance.
However, the 1-0 win leaves Bento’s team in second place in the group behind China on goal difference with the two nations due to face off in their final group game in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
Korea Republic have an impressive record against the Chinese, who have only won twice against their East Asian rivals. The most recent of those victories, however, came during the qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia and Lee knows his team will face a stiff challenge against Marcello Lippi’s side.
“It will not be an easy game,” he said. “They’re also a good team, but if we make good training from tomorrow I think we will be OK because we have a lot of good players and coaches.
“I’m really proud of our team and it will be an exciting game. Both teams have already passed the group stage, but they are first and we are second and who knows how it will be after the third game.
“Many things have changed but they won the last match against us, so it will be a tough game.”