A central midfielder with a sharp eye for goal, Ki Sung-Yueng has emerged as the dead-ball specialist during Korea Republic’s qualifying campaign for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South AfricaÔ. His powerful and accurate free-kicks have made him famous in the Korean football scene, while he more than makes up for his slim figure with excellent vision and creative passes.
After coming through the ranks in Korea Republic’s youth national teams, Ki took part in the AFC U-19 Championship and the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada. It was there that he learned how to play for the team, moving out of his favourite position to operate as a centre-back.
Although he joined FC Seoul in 2006, he did not make his first-team debut until Senol Gunes took charge of the Seoulites the following season. And, as he was establishing himself at the capital club, Ki was given another chance to participate in a major international tournament. He was an integral part of the young Taeguk Warriors at the Olympic Football Tournament in the summer of 2008, but even the inspirational midfielder could not keep his side from making a premature exit from Beijing.
In spite of the disappointing result, Ki finally got the call up to the national team shortly afterwards, winning his first cap in a friendly with Jordan on 5 September 2008. And it took only five more days for him to open his international account, as he scored the equaliser with a half-volley in a 1-1 draw with Korea DPR in the Asian Zone qualifying for South Africa 2010. Ki went on to feature in all of Korea Republic’s eight matches in the fourth and final round, including the hard-fought 1-1 draw with Iran at the Azadi where he set up Park Ji-Sung’s late equaliser with a trademark free-kick.
By the time Ki rounded off the fruitful year in 2009, Celtic came knocking on his door. The Scottish giants were quick to secure his services in December, in a rare occasion that Ki was officially presented as a Celtic player in his homeland, not in Glasgow. It was a dream come true for the 21-year-old, who had dreamt of playing in Europe. In fact, he was nicknamed ‘Kirrard’ after his hero Steven Gerrard, whom he idolised as a teenager.
Now that the chance has come for the promising youngster to shine like the England star in the future. But Ki remains just as humble, insisting that his personal goal is just to score a goal at the finals. And if Korea Republic can progress beyond the group stage, South Africa 2010 will be another dream come true for him.