Steve Bruce backs Ji Dong-won after Korean coach’s criticism

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SUNDERLAND boss Steve Bruce has leapt to the defence of striker Ji Dong-won after he incurred the wrath of his international manager.

The 20-year-old was substituted at half-time in South Korea’s World Cup qualifier against the United Arab Emirates last week and left out of the starting line-up for the clash with Lebanon on Tuesday.

Korea coach Cho Kwang-rae, who introduced him after the break in the second game, criticised the frontman’s conditioning and his performance in Dubai. However, Bruce was quick to back his summer signing from Chunnam Dragons, having recently experienced first-hand the after-effects of the gruelling journey to Seoul.

He said: “It’s quite understandable. If you ask a player to go 11,000 miles, I don’t think he is going to be in the best of conditions, we realise that.

“He has made that trip now four times in the last few months. I made it once and I was exhausted for a week, so to ask him to play football and run around and train, it’s been difficult for the boy.

“He is only 20 years old, so I would have thought maybe the coach would have understood those sort of situations, but there you have it.

“He’s entitled to his opinion but I fully understand.

“That’s why I probably won’t play Ji tomorrow. I know for a fact travelling back after a game on Tuesday, it’s very, very difficult and you are not going to be at your physical best.”