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Apr 11, 2006

South Korea striker Lee suffers World Cup blow

SEOUL, April 11 (Reuters) - South Korea striker Lee Dong-gook could miss the World Cup finals after tearing knee ligaments, the Korea Football Association (KFA) said on Tuesday.

It would be a shattering blow to Lee, who was omitted from South Korea's World Cup squad four years ago by former coach Guus Hiddink.

'Lee Dong-gook tore his right cruciate ligament during a K-League match on April 5,' KFA medical chief Yoon Young-seol said.

'It's a serious injury to his right knee but Lee is determined to play at the World Cup and wants to follow a course of strengthening exercises instead of surgery, which would definitely rule him out.'

South Korea reached the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup as co-hosts with Japan, but Lee has become a permanent fixture since Hiddink's subsequent departure.

Lee, who won the first of his 55 caps in 1998, scored some crucial goals during South Korea's Asian World Cup qualifiers and is a favourite of current national team coach Dick Advocaat.