The name Lee Seung-Yeoul was unrecognisable to his fellow South Koreans two years ago. After a meteoric ascent, however, the 21-year-old Korea Republic forward is hoping to introduce himself to the fans all across the globe at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
The fleet-footed forward began his professional career in 2008, when he joined FC Seoul. After scoring the winner against arch-rivals Suwon Bluewings, he hit five goals in 31 games to help the capital club reach the K-League final, which they lost 3-2 on aggregate. Nevertheless, Lee was rewarded for an arresting campaign with the competition’s Rookie of the Year award, and he followed that up with seven goals in the 2009 season.
Lee went on to take part in last year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt, where Korea Republic reached the quarter-finals, although he could not score in his four outings for the young Taeguk Warriors. However, his consistent performances for club and country did not go unnoticed by senior coach Huh Jung-Moo, who called him up for a series of international friendlies in the build-up to South Africa 2010. Lee subsequently won his first cap against Zambia in January, before travelling to Japan to participate in the EAFF East Asian Championship the following month.
There, he scored his first international goal against Hong Kong, before adding his second against Japan to seal a famous 3-1 victory in Tokyo. Lee’s left-footed effort from 25 metres was a fine example of his quick thinking and vision, as well as the ability to rise to the occasion whenever called upon.
“When I received the ball, I saw the goalkeeper off his line and just shot,” he said. “I was delighted to have led our team from behind to get back into the game,” said Lee. “I don’t think I’m ahead of the competition (for a place in the first team for South Africa). I’m just focusing on improving step by step ahead of the World Cup.”
Lee’s third goal for his nation could not have come at a better time, as he broke the deadlock with a clinical finish to spark a convincing 2-0 win over Ecuador in May. He had been named in a 30-man provisional squad for South Africa 2010, and he knew how important that goal was because Huh would cut four players from the list the day after the match.
“I think I’ve gone a step closer to the World Cup and built up my confidence in the competition with my seniors,” Lee said. “After the East Asian tournament I don’t feel as nervous as before, and even if I’m a second-half substitute at the moment, I always try to work hard to impress.”
Lee has also impressed at club level this year, registering three goals and two assists for Seoul in the first half of the season. The versatile player can operate as a lone striker or on the wing.
“I thought I could have set up more goals in my first and second seasons,” said the player who wants to remain at Seoul for the rest of his career and become a club legend. “I’d like to make ten assists more or less, and of course, my goal is to score ten goals as well.”
Before he return to club duty, though, Lee will hope to represent his country at the 19th edition of the FIFA World Cup. And fifteen minutes as a substitute in the 2-0 win over Japan today will have certainly helped his cause.
Lee wears the No28 for FC Seoul, although his boyhood favourite was the No14 made famous by Johan Cruyff.
In recent years, Lee's current club FC Seoul has produced some of the most promising South Koreans, including Park Chu-Young, Lee Chung-Yong and Ki Sung-Yong.
Lee has a superstitious habit of tying the shoelace from the left side of his boots before a game.
Lee Seung-Yeoul has been a keen admirer of Ronaldinho since the Brazilian helped his country win Korea/Japan 2002.