Injuries pile up for South Korea ahead of World Cup

May 7, 2014

(Yonhap) — One South Korean World Cup hopeful after another has come down with assorted injuries in recent weeks, a worrisome development that could potentially disrupt the country’s preparation for the summer’s big tournament.

When head coach Hong Myung-bo announces his 23-man roster for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil on Thursday, as many as five players could remain on the mend.

Sunderland midfielder Ki Sung-yueng became the latest to join the growing infirmary list on Tuesday. He returned home from his English club before the end of the Premier League season with knee tendinitis, hoping to undergo treatment at home and make the World Cup team.

Before Ki, two other players came home from their European clubs prior to the conclusion of their respective seasons. Forward Park Chu-young of Watford, in the second division in England, and defensive back Park Joo-ho of FSV Mainz 05, in the top German league Bundesliga, are both dealing with foot inflammation.

Koo Ja-cheol, Park Joo-ho’s teammate on Mainz 05, tweaked his back during a recent practice and missed a game last weekend. English and German seasons will wrap up this month.

Midfielder Park Jong-woo, who plays for Guangzhou R&F in China, came home last Saturday, in the middle of the Chinese Super League season, with a thigh injury.

Park Jong-woo,

Korean manager Hong Myung-bo. (Korea Times file)

Korean manager Hong Myung-bo. (Korea Times file)

a hard-nosed player who helped South Korea win bronze at the 2012 London Olympics, appears to be on the bubble for a spot on the World Cup team. The other four players are considered virtual locks for the team.

Coach Hong will be shorthanded when the training camp opens next Monday, but on a brighter note, injuries for these players aren’t considered serious enough to keep them out of the World Cup, should they make the team.

Park Chu-young has been undergoing his rehab program under the watchful eyes of the national team trainer, Seigo Ikeda, since mid-April, and could be ready for drills next week.

Park, with 24 goals in 62 international matches, will be counted on to provide some offensive punch for a team with major scoring woes. South Korea has netted 15 goals in 14 matches since Hong took over the team last June, but four of them came against the heavy underdog Haiti.

Park Joo-ho, a steady fullback with good offensive instincts, is dealing with similar foot problems as Park Chu-young, and could resume physical activities by next week.

National team physicians have said Ki’s knee injury is not as serious as once feared, and that the player, if well-rested, is expected to be ready at the start of the camp.

Ki, a veteran of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, is considered an integral part of both offense and defense for South Korea, thanks to his vision and poise in midfield.

While Koo, a versatile attacker, is experiencing lingering pains, he isn’t expected to miss more time or come back to South Korea for treatment.

Park Jong-woo, according to his management here, was ruled out of action for two weeks by Chinese doctors late last month.

In addition to some injured players, South Korea could have a few more players missing at the opening of the camp.

Players based in Europe will have finished their seasons and the domestic K League Classic will go on a break ahead of the World Cup after matches on Sunday. Those based in China and Japan may also be named to the World Cup roster, and clubs there will play league matches until after the start of the South Korean training camp before entering their World Cup break.

South Korea will be making its eighth consecutive World Cup appearance in Brazil, where it will face Algeria, Belgium and Russia in Group H. At 56th on the FIFA world rankings, South Korea is the lowest-ranked nation among the four. Belgium is No. 12, followed by Russia at No. 18 and Algeria at No. 25.

South Korea will host Tunisia on May 28 in Seoul in its final pre-World Cup match at home. It will fly to Miami two days later to set up a camp there and play Ghana in the last tune-up match on June 10. The team will then travel to Brazil on June 12, five days before its opening match against Russia.