Lee Dong-Gook, 38, wants to revive Korea's fading World Cup hopes
Veteran striker Lee Dong-Gook has called on South Korea's players to be less selfish by showing a greater level of commitment as they prepare to take on Iran in their vital World Cup qualifying match in Seoul later this month.
The 38-year-old earned a surprise recall to the Korean squad from new coach Shin Tae-yong, as they seek to secure a place in the finals in Russia next year after a faltering campaign that saw previous coach Uli Stielike fired in June.
"When I saw the national team matches from the outside in the last few years, I noticed that there aren't many players who are willing to sacrifice for the team," Lee said after being included in the national squad for the first time in almost three years.
"To win with the national team, you need to make your teammates shine on the pitch."
Lee has scored more goals than any other player in the history of the K-League. He was included in the South Korean squad for the World Cup finals in France in 1998 and in South Africa 12 years later.
His return to the side echoes a move made in the qualifying campaign for Brazil 2014. Then-coach Choi Kang-hee recalled Lee as a 34-year-old and the two-time AFC Champions League winner helped the country qualify for the finals.
Despite his veteran status, however, Lee insisted he will seek to play an active role in guiding South Korea to a ninth straight World Cup finals.
"I told head coach Shin Tae-Yong that he should not pick me if he is going to use me for a purpose not related to football," he said. "But Shin told me that I will be a useful option for the team, so I was happy.
"The national team is open to every player, but not everyone can join. I still have more to show."
The South Koreans are in second place in Group A with two games remaining. Only the top two nations qualify automatically for the finals.
Iran, who the Koreans meet on Aug. 31, have already guaranteed themselves first place in the group and a place in Russia, while Uzbekistan are in third, just one point behind Shin's team.
Victory over Iran and a defeat for Uzbekistan against China would see South Korea qualify with one game remaining. Otherwise the hopes of Shin's side will rest on their meeting with the Uzbeks in the last round of games on Sep. 5.
"I think South Korean football always meets Iran in critical moments," Lee said. "For this match, age doesn't matter. If all the players can perform with a mind that they're essential to the team, we will have good results."
Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch