Aubergine

Park Ji-sung on his mind

February 5, 2014

Korean manager Hong Myung-bo will make another attempt 

to talk Park Ji-sung out of retirement from international football

National team manager Hong Myung-ho bites his lips before Korea's friendly against the United States at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. on Feb. 2. Hong will visit the Netherlands before returning home to meet SV Eindhoven midfielder Park Ji-sung, apparently to talk him out of his retirement from international competition. (Yonhap)

National team manager Hong Myung-ho bites his lips before Korea’s friendly against the United States at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. on Feb. 2. Hong will visit the Netherlands before returning home to meet SV Eindhoven midfielder Park Ji-sung, apparently to talk him out of his
retirement from international competition. (Yonhap)

By Kim Tong-hyung

Former Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-sung has rejected another chance to play for Korea’s World Cup team, but desperate Korea manager Hong Myung-bo can’t take no for an answer.

FIFA_World_Cup_Brasil(4)The Korea Football Association (KFA) said on Wednesday that Hong will leave for Germany on Saturday to watch Bundesliga-based players such as Sohn Heung-min, Hong Jeong-ho, Ji Dong-won and Koo Ja-cheol ― core players for the senior national team ― play for their clubs.

Before returning home, he will visit the Netherlands before returning home to meet Park, now playing for PSV Eindhoven, apparently to talk him out of his retirement from international football.

“Hong plans to attend a FC Augsburg game where Ji is expected to play and then personally meet players like Sohn and Koo. He wants to personally meet with Park and hear his opinion in person,’’ said a KFA spokesman.

Considered by many to be Korea’s best player of the past 20 years, Park hasn’t played for his country since the 2011 Asian Cup, announcing his retirement from international football after the tournament.

In a recent interview with vernacular newspaper JoongAng Ilbo, Park said the possibility of him wearing the colors of his country again was “zero percent.’’

However, Hong believes that Park’s skill set, experience and flair for the moment would make a difference to his team, which now appears to be stuck on the treadmill of mediocrity.

Park has played in the three previous World Cups and scored in each of them, cementing his reputation as a big-game player.

While it’s clear that, at the age of 33, Park is no longer the industrious midfielder he was for Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United teams, Hong values his veteran presence and versatility, which allows him to digest both the attacking and defensive midfield roles.

Hong’s persistence about having Park on his squad doubles as a confession about the national team’s lack of depth in talent. Since Hong took the management helm in June last year after the final round of the World Cup qualifiers, the Taeguk Warriors scored 13 goals and conceded 17 in 13 matches.

His attempts to discover new talent during a recent training camp in the United States were an exercise in futility as his squad full of fringe players struggled in lopsided losses to under-strength Mexican and American squads.

Among the veterans currently out of the roster, Park and Park Chu-young, the struggling striker who recently moved to Watford in English football’s second division Championship, are considered as the players with the experience and skill level to improve Hong’s current squad.

Unlike Park Ji-sung, Park Chu-young has been enthusiastic about playing in another World Cup. However, he will first have to prove he is anywhere close to his prime as Hong has been reluctant to use players who aren’t getting regular minutes with their clubs.

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