- Lee Chungyong one of Ulsan Hyundai’s most experienced players
- The winger starred in Europe and played at two FIFA World Cups
- Lee: “We can compete with Bayern”
Few South Koreans have enjoyed as long a stay in Europe as Lee Chungyong. The 32-year-old spent 11 years between Bolton Wanders, Crystal Palace and Bochum before joining Ulsan Hyundai last year.
Lee helped the Tigers win the AFC Champions League in December and consequently book a trip to the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020™, which will begin next month. And he believes his experience on the Old Continent will be an asset if Ulsan can secure a dream match-up against the mighty Bayern Munich.
“My experiences in Europe are perhaps the biggest weapon,” the winger told FIFA.com. “They are one of the best clubs in the world. We may not be on the same level as them, but I played in Europe for years and I am pretty sure we can compete against them if we make the best of our strengths.”
Lee has reason to be confident. Upon the resumption of the AFC Champions League in September, Ulsan won seven straight matches to reach the semi-finals. There, they battled from behind to see off Andres Iniesta and Vissel Kobe, before another fightback victory, this time over Persepolis, in the final. The winner came from a penalty earned when Lee’s cross was handled.
“I’m proud of my team for this achievement,” said Lee. “Our journey proved tough and the campaign was hard-fought throughout. But our players maintained a relaxed mindset during the competition, and this was the reason why we enjoyed this campaign and won it.
“Every team participating in the AFC Champions League is of a high standard. But Vissel Kobe and Persepolis proved harder to play against. Against both of them we conceded the first goal and had to fight back.
“But we trusted each other and believed that we could reverse the match, and we made it. The bond between us team-mates is solid.”
Ulsan will travel to Doha under a new coach – none other than Korea Republic legend Hong Myungbo. Lee, having helped his side finish K League runners-up and become Asian champions, wants to continue being an example to his team-mates.
“Perhaps my place in the team is not fixed yet, but I want to share my experience with our youngsters,” he said. “I want to be a role model both on and off the pitch. Maybe this is what the coach is expecting me to be.”
Lee is no stranger on global scene, having figured prominently for Korea Republic at two FIFA World Cups™: South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014. The Seoul native is now excited to play in his first Club World Cup.
“Of course I’m looking forward to playing in the Club World Cup,” he said. “It’s been quite a while [since my last FIFA tournament]. All the clubs in the competition are world-class and I can’t wait to play against them.”
Lee got his country’s goal in a 4-1 loss to Lionel Messi and Argentina at South Africa 2010, and his second of the tournament against Uruguay in the Round of 16. Is he dreaming about finding the target at Qatar 2020?
“It would be truly wonderful if I can score goals,” he said. “But for me, the team always comes first. I have to do whatever I can to help my team win.”