JI Dong-won’s form and fitness has been severely criticised by South Korean coach Cho Kwang-rae, who says he is considering dropping the star striker from tomorrow’s game against Lebanon.
The Sunderland forward was substituted at half-time in Friday’s World Cup qualifier over group whipping boys United Arab Emirates.
And although the South Koreans stuttered to a 2-0 win over the a limited UAE side, they will need to be better against Lebannon, with Kwang-rae admitting he has yet to decide whether he will risk playing the Premier League player again.
“Ji’s condition was really bad,” he said.
“He was not good in training so I considered not to play him and he was worse in the match than I thought so I had to replace him at half-time. His balance is off and his shooting timing is slow. I think he’s physically really poor now.
“I don’t know if he can be better until we play against Lebanon.”
Ji was clearly below his best in a dreadful first half for both him and the team and the UAE actually kept the scoreline goal-less until the 88th minute before goals from substitute Lee Keun-Ho and Park Chu-Young spared the South Korean’s blushes.
The country’s coach was relieved to have got the right result against a side they were strong favourites to beat but admits he has plenty of food for thought before tomorrow’s game against Lebannon.
Steve Bruce will not be overly concerned about Kwong-rae’s criticism of his player but he will be looking at whether Ji’s form suffered because of the demands of international travel or because he has simply not had enough football since joining Sunderland in the summer.
The 20-year-old has been involved in nine of Sunderland’s games this season but almost invariably as a late substitute.
He has not been involved before the hour in eight of those nine games and has come on in the last 10 minutes of games on four occasions.
The exception was the Black Cats’ last game when Connor Wickham was injured at the start of the game against Manchester United and the South Korean came on after five minutes.
That was a difficult game for Ji to impress in and he failed to do so. But he is set for a run in the side now with Wickham now sidelined for four to six weeks and Bruce will hope that the youngster’s form and fitness will improve markedly with a sustained run in the side.