Korean soccer team returns after “unsuccessful” trip to U.S.

February 3, 2014

(Yonhap) After completing an unsuccessful training camp in the buildup to the FIFA World Cup, the South Korean men’s national football team returned home from the United States on Monday, with players vowing to improve themselves in their upcoming club seasons.

Under head coach Hong Myung-bo, the national squad first trained for a week in Brazil before traveling to Los Angeles for the second part of the camp, with three matches against World Cup participants in three different cities in seven days.

South Korea first beat Costa Rica 1-0 before losing to Mexico 4-0 and then the U.S. 2-0.

Hong had earlier said he was pleased with his players’ efforts during the training phase in Brazil. Their work didn’t translate into success in actual games though, as the players looked lethargic on both ends in the two defeats.

For this camp, Hong called up only players from South Korean, Japanese and Chinese leagues. Several South Koreans ply their trade in Europe, but clubs there weren’t obliged to release their international players for this occasion.

About a dozen players based in Europe and the Middle East are expected to make the World Cup’ roster for South Korea. That will leave about another dozen or so spots for players from the Asian leagues.

This camp was regarded as the final opportunity for such players to make an impression and cement their case for inclusion for the Olympics. Most of these players, however, gave uninspired efforts in the three matches. Instead, those who had already been on the team for recent friendlies, such as forwards Kim Shin-wook and Lee Keun-ho, and fullbacks Lee Yong and Kim Jin-su, appeared ready to take the next step.

Lee Keun-ho, who plays for the domestic military team Sangju Sangmu, told reporters at Incheon International Airport that he will now shift his focus to the new K League Classic season.

“From this camp, I realized that I have to put in more work (to make the World Cup team),” the 28-year-old said. “I think it was a great experience to train in Brazil and get acclimatized to the surroundings there. But I think we lacked stamina and focus as a team. We have to improve them to take on even stronger opponents at the World Cup.”

Jung Sung-ryong, who started in net in the loss against the U.S., said he had no regrets from the camp.

“We won just one of the three games, but all of us goalkeepers worked hard over the past three weeks,” Jung said. “It wasn’t easy, but we wanted to make sure we will all have smiles on our faces (at the World Cup).”

Jung, 29, was the undisputed No. 1 goalkeeper for South Korea at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and in the ensuing couple of years. Coupled with his own recent struggles and the emergence of the 23-year-old Kim Seung-gyu, Jung now finds himself in a battle for playing time.

Jung said he won’t pay attention to other players.

“How I play is more important to me than what other players do,” he said. “I just have to go out there and take care of business.”

Head coach Hong has repeatedly said he will not assure any one player of a chance to make the World Cup team, and that everyone will be given a fair shot to compete for a roster spot.