S. Korea coach Bento says doors to World Cup roster ‘not closed’

SEOUL– As the clock ticks down on this year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the decision time is nigh for South Korea head coach Paulo Bento.

Save for a few obvious choices, there are several players who appear to be on the bubble for Bento’s final 26-man roster, set to be announced on Nov. 12.

And Bento’s message to those players Friday was loud and clear.
“In this moment, the list is not closed,” Bento told reporters at the start of South Korea’s training camp at the National Football Center in Paju, north of Seoul in Gyeonggi Province. Bento has called up 27 players from leagues in South Korea, Japan, China and Qatar for this final camp ahead of the World Cup. Those based in Europe aren’t available, because the camp isn’t part of the FIFA international match calendar.

This is the last opportunity for Asia-based players to stake their claim on the roster and join no-brainer names from Europe in Qatar. The camp will culminate in South Korea’s final World Cup tuneup at home, against Iceland on Nov. 11.

“We will have this training camp, and at the same time, we will observe the players that are competing in Europe, China and Japan,” Bento said. “And then, we will make the last decision at the end of the training camp.”

Bento acknowledged he has already made a few choices in his mind.

“Many, many players that were with us along the process most likely will be in the World Cup,” the coach said. “But closed, the list is not.”

Bento has often said a player’s standing within his club could be an important factor in determining that player’s status for the national team. On Friday, though, Bento said a player’s history with the national team will matter a great deal before the World Cup.

“We know that players go through different moments along the season,” Bento said. “It’s important we know what they make in the clubs, but it’s also important we know what they can do with us in our context. Just because they are not in a very good moment (on their clubs), (it doesn’t mean) they can’t have the possibility to come to the World Cup.”

At the World Cup, South Korea will face Uruguay, Ghana and Portugal in Group H. South Korea will try to reach the knockouts for only the third time, after advancing to the semifinals in 2002 and the round of 16 in 2010.

“We know that all of them are strong teams,” Bento said. “But the goal is clear for us: it is to compete in every single game as well as we can and try to make our best in the beautiful competition (that is) the World Cup.”

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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