Versatile defender eyes nat’l football team starting spot

November 15, 2018

BRISBANE, Australia, Nov. 15 (Yonhap) — South Korean defender Kwon Kyung-won said Thursday that he wants to take a starting spot in the national football team under the new head coach.

Kwon is one of the 24 players selected by head coach Paulo Bento for South Korea’s two friendly matches this month. The Taeguk Warriors are scheduled to face Australia on Saturday and Uzbekistan three days later. Both matches will be played in Brisbane, Australia.

The two matches are tune-ups for the 2019 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates, which kicks off in January.

For Kwon, it will be his first opportunity to impress Bento before the Portuguese tactician assembles his squad for the 2019 Asian Cup.

“I watched the national team’s recent matches and it really pushed me to work harder,” said Kwon, who has been selected for the squad for the first time since June. “I also analyzed the players who can play in my position. But instead of playing better than them, I think what’s critical is that I need to adjust to the new coach’s style of play.”

South Korea national football team player Kwon Kyung-won speaks to reporters before training at Perry Park in Brisbane, Australia, on Nov. 15, 2018, two days ahead of an international friendly football match between South Korea and Australia. (Yonhap)

South Korea national football team player Kwon Kyung-won speaks to reporters before training at Perry Park in Brisbane, Australia, on Nov. 15, 2018, two days ahead of an international friendly football match between South Korea and Australia. (Yonhap)

Kwon is one of the candidates to fill the void left by Jang Hyun-soo, the center back who is now permanently barred from the national team after doctoring his community service records.

With Kim Young-gwon very likely to lead South Korea’s center defense, Kwon will compete against teammates like Kim Min-jae, Jung Seung-hyun and Park Ji-soo for a starting center back spot.

“Jang did a good job, so it’s important to fill the void he left,” he said. “There are lots of defenders, but I want to make a good impression on Bento.”

Kwon, who is with Chinese side Tianjin Quanjian, can also play as a defensive midfielder, but the 26-year-old said he prefers playing at the back.

“I feel more comfortable playing defense, but my mission is to give my best in any position,” he said. “I’ll also think about how to communicate and play well with our goalkeeper.”

For the two friendlies, South Korea will be also without core players like Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min and Newcastle United midfielder Ki Sung-yueng. The upcoming games are South Korea’s first away matches since Bento took over the team in August.

Kwon, who has one goal in five caps, said the players are determined to collect positive results even through key members are missing.

“Many fans are supporting are us, but we can’t disappoint them with bad results on the road,” he said. “Some of the core players are missing, but we’ll maintain a good atmosphere.”

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