Veteran striker adopting rookie mindset for 1st nat’l team camp

Joo Min-kyu of Ulsan HD FC celebrates his team's 1-0 victory over Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the second leg of the quarterfinals at the Asian Football Confederation Champions League at Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan, in this photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League, March 12. Yonhap

At age 33, Ulsan HD FC forward Joo Min-kyu will be one of the oldest players for the Korean men’s national football team when their training camp opens next week for two upcoming World Cup qualifying matches. But Joo is ready to take on a rookie mindset because he literally is a rookie when it comes to international duty .On Monday, Joo was selected as one of 23 players for Korea as they gear up for home-and-away World Cup qualifying contests against Thailand on March 21 and 26. At 33 years and 333 days to be exact, Joo became the oldest Korean player ever to earn a first call-up. If Joo gets into action in one of the two matches, he will also become the oldest Korean player to make his international debut. “It’s been a long time coming. There were moments when I felt really hurt, and I wanted to give it all up,” Joo told reporters Tuesday night after Ulsan defeated Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 1-0 in the second leg of the quarterfinals at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League at Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan, some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul. Ulsan advanced to the semifinals after winning the quarters 2-1 on aggregate. “I’ve stuck to it for a few seasons, and I am really happy to see my hard work bear fruit,” Joo added. “I am proud of myself for not giving up.”

No player has scored more goals than Joo’s 56 over the past three years in the K League 1. He won the scoring titles in 2021 and 2023. Despite his goal-scoring prowess, Joo had been overlooked by the past two national team bosses, Paulo Bento and Jurgen Klinsmann.In 2022, Joo and Cho Gue-sung, then of Jeonbuk, both finished with 17 goals, but Cho was awarded the scoring crown because he played in six fewer matches .Joo and Cho have been named to the national team this month as the team’s only two forwards. Cho is nearly eight years Joo’s junior but has already collected 37 caps and has played at the last two major tournaments: the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. The squad also features the high-scoring captain of Tottenham Hotspur, Son Heung-min. The longtime national team skipper ranks third overall in national team history with 44 goals. Son is chasing down his own national team head coach Hwang Sun-hong, who finished his illustrious international career with 50 goals. Everywhere Joo looks, there will be learning opportunities, and he wants to make the most of them. “I am going to keep my head down, thinking I am the youngest guy on the team, and play as hard as I can,” Joo said. “Son is one of the best players in the world. In the short time we’re going to be together, I will try to pick his brains and figure out what makes him so great.”

Hwang is the head coach for the under-23 men’s national team who has been asked to hold the fort for the senior squad for the March matches, until a full-time replacement for Klinsmann, fired last month after Korea’s Asian Cup elimination, is named. Even if Joo is picked for future iterations of the national team, this will likely be his final chance to work with one of Korea’s premier strikers from the 1990s.”I am looking forward to training with him. I considered it an honor,” Joo said. “I want to learn how he was able to score so many goals. “Hwang reserved high praise for Joo when he announced the squad Monday, saying, “No one has scored more than 50 goals over the past three years, and we don’t really need much explanation when it comes to Joo Min-kyu.” “I had lost some confidence over the years and started wondering what more I had to do to make the team,” Joo said. “I was so happy when I read the coach’s comments. I’ve realized my dream because I never gave up. I’d like to see other players keep chasing their dreams.”Joo may want to see himself as a young guy, but he will surely have some old man jokes coming his way. He has already heard some from his wife. “My wife teased me about being so old on this team, but then she said, ‘At least you’re first in something,'” Joo said with a smile. “It would have been nice if I’d made the team when I was younger, 카지노사이트킹 but I think I wasn’t good enough then. I am thankful that I’ve made this team at this age.”

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