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PSG's Lee Kang-in 'proud' of teammates for clinching knockout berth without him

Sept. 22, 2023 - 21:41 By Yonhap
Lee Kang-in, midfielder on the South Korean men's Asian Games football team, speaks to reporters before a training session at the training field in Jinhua Sports Centre Stadium in Jinhua, China (Yonhap)

Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Lee Kang-in said Friday he was "proud" of his South Korean teammates at the Asian Games in China, having belatedly joined the team after the young Taegeuk Warriors handily won their first two group stage matches.

Lee arrived in the Asiad host city of Hangzhou on Thursday, hours before South Korea defeated Thailand 4-0 in their second Group E match. This came on the heels of a 9-0 rout of Kuwait to open the tournament Tuesday.

Lee, who had missed the two earlier matches due to club commitments, had his first training session with the team Friday in Jinhua, southwest of Hangzhou.

"I am excited to join the team. I felt bad about not being around," Lee told reporters before practice. "It was great to see the guys win. I was proud of them."

With two straight victories, South Korea have already clinched the top spot in Group E and punched a ticket to the round of 16. There's nothing at stake for South Korea in their final group stage match against Bahrain on Sunday, and it presents an ideal opportunity for head coach Hwang Sun-hong to give Lee stress-free match action with his teammates.

Lee was named to the Asiad team in July but has yet to play a match with the team. He does have a few former teammates from the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup, where Lee helped South Korea to a runner-up finish and won the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player.

"I feel the same way I always feel. Right now, it's more important to get on the same page with the guys," Lee said. "It's been a while since I last played with them. So we're going to have to talk to each other as much as we can."

Lee watched Thursday's win from the stands. Before the match, he spent about 20 minutes talking with Hwang on the bench.

"We're all moving in the same direction toward the same goal," Lee said. "The coach and I talked about the best ways to accomplish that goal."

Lee is widely considered the most creative offensive player for South Korea. The 22-year-old midfielder has the kind of vision and passing skills rarely seen in his age group.

"The coach will let me play where I want to play," Lee said of his position. "I just want to put up the best result possible with my teammates." (Yonhap)