x

Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 July 2018

Park Ji-sung: Mexico's win over Germany makes South Korea's chances of progressing more challenging

But former Manchester United midfielder, who represented Korea at three global finals, tells us his team have quality to reach knockout stages

South Korea's players attend a training session at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium ahead of their game against Sweden. EPA
South Korea's players attend a training session at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium ahead of their game against Sweden. EPA

Park Ji-sung, considered by many to be South Korea’s greatest ever player, says Sunday’s shock result in the Group F opener between Mexico and Germany makes his country’s chances of progression to the knockout stages even more difficult.

The former Manchester United midfielder, who represented Korea at three global finals between 2002 and 2010, was in attendance at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow to witness the Mexicans stun the world champions with a 1-0 victory.

With Joachim Low’s men expected to top the group, the defeat increases the pressure on South Korea, who get their campaign under way on Monday against Sweden at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium.

Although the Koreans have qualified for every World Cup since 1986, they have made it to the last 16 only twice before and not since South Africa eights years ago. Last time out, in Brazil, they finished bottom of their group, with one point from three matches.

Former Manchester Utd player Park Ji-sung expects South Korea to reach the knockout stages, but concedes it will be difficult. Paul Ellis / AFP
Former Manchester Utd player Park Ji-sung expects South Korea to reach the knockout stages, but concedes it will be difficult. AFP

Speaking to The National following Mexico's triumph against Germany, Park said: “This result was not what we expected, so it changes the group. But we have to focus on our first match and then see what happens for the rest of the group.

“We always aim to pass the group stage; that’s our first goal for this World Cup. And we had a bad performance at the last World Cup, so we want to turn it around from then.”

Park said he was confident his national team could emerge from the group, despite struggling through the last round of qualification. The Koreans did not secure their place in Russia until the final fixture against Uzbekistan in September.

“This World Cup our expectations are quite low because of the national team’s performance during qualification,” Park said. “But the World Cup is the World Cup, so you never know.

“I believe [they can advance]. They prepared well and hopefully they can make it. But this group is very, very tough, and then, again, the first result is not what we expected. So just do our best and see if we can get it.”

South Korea's Son Heung-min will likely play a crucial role for his side at the World Cup. Lee Jin-man / AP Photo
South Korea's Son Heung-min is expected to play a crucial role for his side at the World Cup. AP

____________

Read more:

World Cup 2018: Day 5 live updates - Focus shifts to England and Belgium

Tite will not blame referee after Neymar's Brazil are held by Switzerland

Wonderful Mexico rise to the occasion to beat champions Germany

Predictions, winners, losers, top-scorers and players to watch

____________

Park played 100 times for South Korea between 2000 and 2011, helping his side to their best-ever finish at a World Cup: third, on home soil, in 2002. He was captain in South Africa in 2010, while his goal against Greece in Port Elizabeth ensured he became the first Asian to score in three consecutive finals.

Hopes for this month's tournament rest primarily on Son Heung-min, the prolific Tottenham Hotspur forward. Asked what the secret to success in Russia will be, Park said: “I don’t know. Maybe the manager knows that. But we have Son, who plays for Tottenham, who can score against any team. So hopefully he can make something at this World Cup.”

RELATED ARTICLES
Recommended