Cap­tain hopes Korean play­ers stay strong

The Korea Times - - SPORTS - (Yon­hap)

South Korean cap­tain Ki Sung-yueng is one of those play­ers who isn’t afraid to ex­press his thoughts and feel­ings.

In a re­cent friendly match against Bos­nia and Herze­gov­ina, Ki threw away his cap­tain’s arm­band in the locker room dur­ing the half­time af­ter his side con­ceded two goals at home. Af­ter South Korea were held to a score­less draw against Bo­livia in their World Cup tuneup match in Aus­tria, the Swansea City mid­fielder told re­porters that he felt like he was a “liar” since he couldn’t keep his word to fans with the poor re­sults.

Ki knows that his words and ac­tions can af­fect the team at­mos­phere, but the 29-year-old re­ally doesn’t like pre­tend­ing ev­ery­thing go­ing is well.

“My past re­marks were not in­tended to earn sym­pa­thy,” Ki told re­porters Wed­nes­day af­ter South Korea’s first train­ing at Spar­tak Sta­dium in Lomonosov, a sub­urb of Saint Peters­burg, Rus­sia. “As a na­tional team player, I want to play a good game at the World Cup more than any­one else. I made those com­ments be­cause I felt like we re­peated the same mis­takes over and over again.”

South Korea had their first train­ing in Rus­sia on Wed­nes­day, five days ahead of their World Cup Group F opener against Sweden. South Korea are sched­uled to face Mex­ico on June 23 and Ger­many on June 27.

Ki said stay­ing healthy is im­por­tant for his team at this junc­ture.

“I think we’re about 90 per­cent ready,” he said. “Hon­estly at this point, there isn’t any more train­ing left to do, and even if you do, it’s not go­ing to make a big dif­fer­ence.”

Ki, who is the most ex­pe­ri­enced player on the South Korean squad with 102 caps, said the play­ers are all set and they are de­ter­mined to show their tal­ents on the pitch.

“I told the play­ers that we should en­joy the tour­na­ment and get rid of pres­sure,” he said. “With this pre­cious op­por­tu­nity, I hope the play­ers can dis­play their char­ac­ter on the pitch.”

Ki will play in his third World Cup, and he knows how it feels to have suc­cess and fail­ure at the World Cup. At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, South Korea reached the round of 16, the first time that the na­tional team achieved such a feat on for­eign soil.

AP-Yon­hap

Son He­ung-min, left, runs dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion of South Korea at the 2018 soc­cer World Cup at the Spar­tak Sta­dium in Lomonosov near St. Peters­burg, Rus­sia, Wed­nes­day.

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