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Youngsters earn Korea Republic call-up

Seoul: Head coach Paulo Bento has named a strong squad for Korea Republic's next round of Asian Qualifiers' ties, with youngsters Lee Jae-ik and Lee Kang-in also handed a call-up.

Son Heung-min leads the Korea squad, who will play Sri Lanka and DPR Korea in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Asian Qualifiers but Jae-ik's inclusion is based on his performance in the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019.

Korea Republic emerged runners-up after a phenomenal performance and Bento has obviously marked Jae-ik, who plays for Qatar's Al Rayyan, as a future national team stalwart.

"I felt that this was the right time for him to join the senior team and show us what he has. We have a lot of depth in his position (at centre-back). He'll not be guaranteed playing time, but we'll see how competitive he can be against national team veterans," said Bento.

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Other notable call-ups include Qatar-based player, Nam Tae-hee of Al-Sadd, who replaced Ulsan Hyundai's Kim Bo-kyung in defence, while Valencia CF's teen midfielder Kang-in - who debuted in a friendly against Georgia - will make his return to the national side.

Kang-in's stock is on the rise after making a UEFA Champions League debut and scoring his first La Liga goal earlier this month. Bento spoke highly of Kang-in's offensive skills but said he still needs some work on the defensive end.

"He has tremendous upside, and he can put his skills to great effect on the offensive end. He clearly has some holes in his defensive game, but we'll try to help him make improvement in those areas when he trains with the national team," said Bento.

In-form Salzburg forward Hwang Hee-chan will lead the attack alongside two returning forwards Hwang Ui-jo (pictured above) of Bordeaux and Kim Shin-wook of Shanghai Greenland Shenhua and Na Sang-ho.

"Players who switch clubs always go through an adjustment period, and Hwang Ui-jo is no exception. With his club, he's playing in a different position than what he's used to on the national team. But I think it's going to be an opportunity for him to grow as a player. Regardless of how he does with the club, he'll be our striker," added the Portuguese tactician.

DPR Korea lead Group H after two straight victories against Lebanon and Sri Lanka. Korea Republic have played once so far, defeating Turkmenistan 2-0 last month. Sri Lanka are in last place after dropping their first two matches.

Korea Republic are bidding to qualify for their 10th consecutive FIFA World Cup.

Sources: Yonhap News Agency, Korea Republic Football Association

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