The Korea Herald


[World Cup] Park looks to come through vs. Russia

By Korea Herald

Published : June 15, 2014 - 19:57

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FOZ DO IGUACU, Brazil (Yonhap) ― The objective of soccer is rather simple: Score more than the opposition.

Things haven’t been quite so simple for South Korea, however, in its preparations for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

In 16 games coached by Hong Myung-bo, who took the reins last summer, South Korea has found the back of the net just 15 times, an inflated total given that four of the goals came against an overmatched Haiti.

In six matches in 2014, South Korea has scored only three goals while conceding 11.

So far in Brazil, Hong has emphasized the importance of defense. Yet even the staunchest of defense will be for naught unless South Korea can address its goal scoring woes.

For offense, Hong will look to the one player who has shown a flair for the dramatic at international level.

Striker Park Chu-young, 28, was a hugely controversial choice for Hong’s 23-man squad for the tournament. Upon taking over the national team, Hong stressed he would only use players who are getting regular action at club level.
Striker Park Chu-young ( Yonhap) Striker Park Chu-young ( Yonhap)

Pressed for goals, Hong made an exception and selected Park for a friendly against Greece in March ― although Park had barely played for his Premier League club Arsenal and his plight improved little after a loan to another English club, Watford, earlier in the year.

Park duly responded to Hong’s faith and got the coach off the hot seat by scoring the opener in South Korea’s 2-0 victory in Athens. It was his first international score since November 2011.

Park said scoring will take a team effort.

“Everyone needed to work together to create chances, but we weren’t able to do that (against Ghana),” he said. “I don’t want to just take a lot of shots by myself. I’d like to help the whole team be more productive.” 

Ki hoping to lead by example

Recently offering a post-mortem on South Korea’s 4-0 loss to Ghana last week in Miami, South Korean head coach Hong Myung-bo said a player who could serve as “a control tower” would have kept the score more respectable.

Though Hong is hardly one to single out players or throw his men under the bus, he might have directed his rare public criticism at midfielder Ki Sung-yueng.

The 25-year-old has long been known for his poise and vision as a holding midfielder, with his physical play and superior instincts allowing him to dictate the pace on offense and keeping opponents at bay on defense.

Very little of such talents was on display against Ghana, though. Just 5 minutes into the contest, Ki took down Ghanan forward Abdul Majeed Waris with a hard tackle. Waris left the match with an injury and Ki picked up a yellow card.

The early yellow kept Ki from playing his usual aggressive football, which in turn opened up space for Ghana to exploit.

Though he’s only 25, Ki is expected to be among the leaders on the current team.

“In my book, a good leader shouldn’t just be a rah-rah guy,” Ki said. “A leader has to show something on the field. If it’s an attacking player, he has to score goals. If it’s a midfielder, he has to create chances for his forwards. That is leadership to me.”