S. Korean football captain hopes new faces can create sensation at World Cup

May 23, 2018
South Korea national football team captain Ki Sung-yueng speaks at a press conference at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on May 23, 2018. (Yonhap)

South Korea national football team captain Ki Sung-yueng speaks at a press conference at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on May 23, 2018. (Yonhap)

This file photo taken March 24, 2018, shows South Korea national football team captain Ki Sung-yueng controlling the ball during the international friendly match between South Korea and Northern Ireland at Windsor Park in Belfast. (Yonhap)

This file photo taken March 24, 2018, shows South Korea national football team captain Ki Sung-yueng controlling the ball during the international friendly match between South Korea and Northern Ireland at Windsor Park in Belfast. (Yonhap)

By Joo Kyung-don

PAJU, South Korea, May 23 (Yonhap) — South Korean national football captain Ki Sung-yueng said Wednesday he hopes his team’s new faces can create a big sensation at the 2018 FIFA World Cup after some key players have been ruled out with injuries.

With the World Cup in Russia less than a month away, South Korea have lost a handful of players to injuries. Energetic center back Kim Min-jae and veteran playmaker Yeom Ki-hun were ruled out even before head coach Shin Tae-yong announced his 28-man provisional World Cup roster on May 14, while Dijon FCO midfielder Kwon Chang-hoon and Gangwon FC forward Lee Keun-ho were dropped from the list after they sustained injuries in their club action over the weekend.

Ki, who spent the last season with Swansea City in the English Premier League, said he feels heavy-hearted about the situation, but the remaining players will work that much harder to overcome the difficulties. The 26 national team players have been training at the National Football Center (NFC) in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, since Monday.

“It’s a pity that we lost some players due to injuries, but I believe the remaining players will work harder to get their chances,” Ki said at a press conference at the NFC. “I also believe that through this opportunity, new faces can create a sensation at the World Cup.”

South Korea’s provisional World Cup squad includes three uncapped players — Lee Seung-woo of Hellas Verona, Moon Seon-min of Incheon United and Oh Ban-suk of Jeju United. Among the three, Lee and Moon are considered promising attacking options to fill the void of Kwon and Lee Keun-ho up front.

Ki said he doesn’t know specific styles of their plays since he’s never played with the two. But Ki also said he believes Lee and Moon have the talent to make contributions to South Korea.

“Lee had a hard time for a while in the Italian Serie A, but he had a good pace late in the season,” he said. “Moon is in good form and I believe that when these players adjust to our team and get in the mood, they’ll be a serious threat to their opponents.”

South Korea are in Group F, where they will face Sweden, Mexico and Germany. Ki said South Korea could upset their opponents if they prepare thoroughly.

“In football, you can’t ignore the possibility that the underdogs upset the favorites,” he said. “We can make something happen and we have the players who can do it.”

Ki, who is the most experienced on the roster at 99 caps, is expected to make his 100th international appearance Monday when South Korea take on Honduras in a friendly match in Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul. The 29-year-old midfielder, who made his international debut in 2008, said joining the century club was a big honor.

“Making a 100th appearance for my country is more meaningful than anything else in my career,” he said. “Thanks to my teammates and coaching staff, I was able to come this far.”

Ki said he hopes fans will give big support to the national team during the World Cup.

“I still remember that fans supported us even when we had difficult times during the final World Cup qualification round, and that’s why I want to give back to them,” he said. “I know there are people who are pessimistic about the national team, but we’ll work hard to meet fans’ expectations.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>