The slogan "Time for Change” was behind the desk at KFA House in the middle of Seoul on Monday morning. There was also a picture of a smiling national team coach Uli Stielike wishing the country a Merry Christmas.The weather was certainly right for any festive feelings with the temperature a chilly minus nine outside. It took journalists time to get fingers warmed up for writing, but soon they were tapping away merrily as the German announced his 23-man squad for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, where they will face the Socceroos in game three of Group A in the Queensland capital.
As they did so, the former Real Madrid midfielder told the press pack that he liked the new slogan.
The last time the Taeguk Warriors, Asia's most successful World Cup team, lifted the continental trophy was back in 1960. The team has not always been as enthusiastic about the competition as it could have. That is not the case any more.
“I don't know how the Koreans played during the last 55 years, but they did not win the Asian Cup,” pointed out the man appointed in September. “So I also think that it is time to change.”
There does seem to be something of a new era and it could be that Stielike has ended the international career of Park Chu-young. That may be a hasty conclusion to draw for a player just 29 but if the ex-Arsenal man can't make the squad of 23 when his two biggest rivals for the main striking spot, Lee Dong-gook and Kim Shin-wook, are unavailable through injury, and he is now playing regularly for Saudi Arabia club Al Shabab, then perhaps he never will.
His place has been taken by the powerful Lee Jung-hyub of newly-promoted army club Sangju Sangmu, the one surprise selection of the 23.
“Calling up Park and not giving Lee a chance would be an easier choice to make,” said Stielike, reinforcing the theme of change. “However, I did the opposite and decided to take the full responsibility for calling up Lee.”
Park's disastrous spell with Arsenal ultimately cost him playing time, form, popularity and ultimately his national team place. It is not quite as simple as that but when he joined the Gunners in 2011, he was perhaps Asia's top striker. Now, he will not even be at the continent's showpiece event when his team looks to be shorter of firepower than ever.
Yet even with his absence, out of all the visitors to Australia, Korea has a genuinely Asian squad. Six are based in the west – Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia, two are active in China, three come from the J.League and six play in Korea.
That leaves six to make the mammoth journey from England and Germany.
The European-based contingent would have been bigger had Queens Park Rangers left-back Yun Suk-young and Hong Jeong-ho, centre-back with FC Augsburg in the Bundesliga, not been struggling for fitness.Ji Dong-won at Borussia Dortmund pays the price for a lack of game time.
The one name to get fans excited and to be asking Santa Claus for an injury-free few weeks is Son Heung-min. The Bayer Leverkusen forward has been arguably Asia's best player in 2014 and has impressed in the Bundesliga, the UEFA Champions League and even at the FIFA World Cup, a tournament that everyone in the rest of Korea is trying to forget.
For Stielike to have a good chance of bringing the AFC Asian Cup to the Land of the Morning Calm for the first time since before the Beatles hit it big, then he is going to have to take care of 'Sonaldo' and think carefully as to where to deploy his greatest weapon.
If Son shines, then the Seoul winter, as well as the absence of Park could all be forgotten. That would be a change all would welcome.
Australia's inspirational skipper declares he's fit and ready for huge 2018
The Caltex Socceroos will have a fully fit skipper when they embark on their first match in the Bert van Marwijk era. Mile Jedinak sat alongside his new national coach at the pre-game media conference ahead of Saturday morning's clash with Norway in chilly Oslo. Australia’s
Milicic upbeat as Aussies aim to surprise world’s best in Russia
EXCLUSIVE Caltex Socceroos assistant coach Ante Milicic believes the extended training camp prior to World Cup 2018 will be pivotal in supercharging Australia’s chances in Russia. Bert van Marwijk’s Australians will be in camp in Turkey from May 19 to June 7. They'll also
Van Marwijk impressed by Caltex Socceroos ahead of Norway clash
Bert van Marwijk has declared himself impressed after his first training camp with the Caltex Socceroos coach. The Dutch mentor has spoken for the first time since bringing together his inaugural squad as Australia coach. “My first impression is very positive,” van Marwijk
5 key facts ahead of Caltex Socceroos v Norway
The Caltex Socceroos begin life under Bert van Marwijk in the early hours of Saturday morning (AEDT) when they take on Norway in Oslo in a crucial pre-2018 FIFA World Cup friendly. While Australia hasn’t fared well in friendly matches in recent years, they have never lost to N