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S. Korean striker confident of scoring goals in World Cup qualifier vs. China

2017/03/20 10:00

INCHEON, March 20 (Yonhap) -- South Korean striker Lee Jeong-hyeop said Monday he is confident of scoring goals in the upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifier against China with his fine league form.

Lee is one of the 23 players selected for South Korea's 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against China and Syria this month. The Taeguk Warriors will first take on China on the road on Thursday, before hosting Syria on March 28 in the final Asian qualifying round for the FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Sixteen players already departed for Changsha, China along with head coach Uli Stielike on Sunday. Lee and winger Heo Yong-joon couldn't travel with the squad because of their clubs' schedule.

Lee plays for the second-tier K League Challenge club Busan IPark, but is on a three-match scoring streak. On Sunday, he picked up his third goal of the season with a header against Gyeongnam FC.

The 25-year-old striker appears to be getting rid of his poor form last year. Lee was with Ulsan Hyundai FC in the top flight K League Classic on loan from Busan in the 2016 season, but failed to impress as he scored only four goals in 30 matches.

"I think my recent goal scoring instinct is not bad," Lee said at Incheon International Airport before departing for China. "If I joined the national team without scoring goals, I would have felt deflated, but I feel confident right now."

   Lee, who has five goals in 16 matches for South Korea, said he will not feel intimidated by Chinese supporters at Helong Stadium, where the national team will play the World Cup qualifier.

South Korea and China will clash amid deepening tensions between their governments over Seoul's decision to host a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery.

"Sports and politics are different," he said. "I would think Chinese supporters with red shirts as our supporters and just play hard."

   Both South Korea and China are in Group A, where they are also paired with Iran, Uzbekistan, Qatar and Syria. Only the top two teams directly advance to the World Cup in Russia, while the third place team must go through playoff rounds to earn its spot.

South Korean striker Lee Jeong-hyeop speaks to reporters at Incheon International Airport before flying to China on March 20, 2017, three days before the national football team's World Cup qualifying match against the Chinese national team. (Yonhap) South Korean striker Lee Jeong-hyeop speaks to reporters at Incheon International Airport before flying to China on March 20, 2017, three days before the national football team's World Cup qualifying match against the Chinese national team. (Yonhap)

kdon@yna.co.kr

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