Looking over to Korean Footballers Abroad, all games of consequence are on Saturday (apologies to Tavern goers in Korea – don’t have the TV listings this week).
|Lee Chung Yong
|Kim Bo Kyung
|NBC Extra Time
|Ji Dong Won
|NBC Extra Time
|Ki Sung Yueng
|NBC Extra Time
Lots of chatter about Park Chu-Young and Ryu Seung-Woo -and now this —Hong Myong-Bo trying to bring Park Ji-Sung along for the World Cup ride?!? But first —kickaround time
but the Tavern Owner just got in a schedule jam. Some very interesting thoughts and news items to share. Jae sent this to me, from the Joongang Daily & Ilgan Sports, an interview with Lee Chung-Yong by Park Rin about the Blue Dragon’s role in Hong’s Taeguk Warrior squad. Lee weighs in on the big question hanging for Hong Myong-Bo regarding a certain Park Chu-Young.
|Lee Chung-yong of the Bolton Wanderers poses during an interview with Ilgan Sports in Manchester, England, on Dec. 30. [JoongAng Ilbo]
Lee became the captain of the national team for the first time in his career in November and led the team’s 2-1 victory over Switzerland in a friendly match by scoring the winning goal. In a recent poll conducted by the Korea Football Association, Lee was named as the player of the year for 2013. Ilgan Sports, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, interviewed Lee in Manchester, England, on Dec. 30. Here are some excerpts.
Do you think Park Ji-Sung will join the national team before the World Cup?
He is getting married in the summer [laughs]. It would be a huge plus for the team if he does, but the person I know never changes his decision once he makes one.
How did Park Ji-Sung impact you?When he played with United, his house was only 30 minutes away from my place. We talked to each other many times via phone and he gave me a lot of advice, even about minor things like how I can find a good Korean supermarket. He also gave me tips about teams in the English Premier League. He was also one of the few people who consistently called me to cheer me up when I was injured in 2011. But since he started dating SBS announcer Kim Min-ji, he doesn’t answer my calls as much. [laughs]
Analysts and fans say you should be the captain of the Taegeuk Warriors in the World Cup. What are your thoughts?
[The Switzerland match] was my first time being the captain of a team since I started playing football when I was a 4th-grader. I tried to read the game and lead the team well, but I felt I need more experience to do that. I think the best option for a team captain is Koo Ja-cheol of VfL Wolfsburg because he has already done the same job in the 2012 London Olympics under Coach Hong Myung-bo’s leadership.
Korea is grouped with Russia, Algeria and Belgium. Some say it was one of the best draws in the history of Korean football. Do you agree?
It will be a very competitive one, though I don’t feel like we won’t advance to the second round. We lost to Russia, [2-1], in a friendly match in November, but I don’t think we did a bad job because we were more focused on testing strategies than winning the game. I think their biggest weapon is their coach, Fabio Capello, who has led many big clubs, including Real Madrid. I only saw Algeria’s football team via television during the 2010 South Africa World Cup. Their football style is similar to a Middle East country like Iraq. One of the most impressive players on the Belgium team is Christian Benteke of the Aston Villa FC.
You are known as an honest player. Do you think Coach Hong needs to add Park Chu-young of Arsenal to his lineup?
I just speak what I think honestly, and since the lineup card belongs to Hong, I think I should respect that. [After a long pause] I know that Park had a hard time trying to get a chance to play, but I think a player like him, who has been considered one of the best Korean football [players], can easily get back in shape if he gets a little time on the field. We should consider his skills and experience. Because we have six more months until the Brazil event, I hope he will spend the remaining time wisely.
You had a terrible injury. Have you recovered fully?
I can’t say that I’m 100 percent the same as before I got injured, but I think I’m in good shape now.
People say you should leave the Wanderers because they are a Championship League team. How do you respond?
The team was unlucky in the 2012 season. Several players, including myself, and core midfielders like Fabrice Muamba and Stewart Holden couldn’t play because of injuries. It is harder than I thought to advance to the Premier League, but I really want to lead the club to that league.
> Back to the Kickaround… the Tavern owner called it a while back, that Hong was planning to, but had not made it official yet to call up Park Chu-Young
. The wait was over: Hong broke it to the Chosun Ilbo
and other Korean media organizations gathered at a midweek press conference in Seoul signaling his desire to include Park in the eventual 23 man World Cup squad.
“It is true that Chu-young has not been able to maintain the best feel of the game because he hasn’t been playing (often) for his club. But a player who can act as a psychological leader among the players will help the team greatly, and in my opinion, Chu-young can do that…”
“This World Cup takes place immediately after the European league season ends, unlike the London Olympics in 2012. This makes it even more difficult for Chu-young to be in his top form when he joins the national team…[however the] addition of Chu-young to the national team would give it an overall boost thanks to his leadership and experience.”
With meaningful playing time this spring [and hopefully a transfer out of Arsenal], Park Chu-Young should/could be headed to Brazil.
So it was a surprise to the Tavern when Hong went on to add that he could take another Park- a certain Park Ji-Sung to Brazil. Whaaaat?! Ji-Sung to come out of retirement from international football to come along for the World Cup ride? Park just returned to PSV Eindhoven’s lineup from a knee injury, but repeatedly told reporters that his retirement from the Taeguk Warriors after the 2011 Asian Cup was for real. But can he resist his captain from the 2002 World Cup squad?
“I know that Ji-sung has said several times that he has no intention of playing in the World Cup. But I plan to meet with him privately and talk with him directly about that.”
Hong will travel to see Park Ji-Sung to appeal to him directly after the US training camp/friendlies in late January and early February. Tavern speculates that Hong will have to make a separate special appeal to Park Ji-Sung’s girlfriend to release him from contractual boyfriend duties. Oh captain, my captain…
Meanwhile another considered to be part of Hong’s inner circle is his coach in 2002 and head coach while serving as an assistant coach for Anzhi Makhachkala, Guus Hiddink. He arrived in Seoul earlier this week for a knee surgery, but offered some general words of wisdom for the Korean team as they face off against Russia in June. From the Chosun Ilbo
: “Russia would not prove an easy foe as it has so many seasoned players with UEFA Champions League experience, and that Korea must close down the players’ space and stop them from creating goal-scoring chances to get a good result.”
Guus is planning on meeting with Hong during his trip. [Thanks to Lionel Lee for passing that link along to me].
Last but not least -to Lagos, Nigeria we go, the scene of winter camp friendlies for Bayer Leverkusen. They played to a 2-2 draw with Young Boys, with Ryu Seung-Woo playing the 1st half. From accounts, he played well. From Bayer’s English translated site: “New signing Seung-Woo Ryu broke into the box through to the byeline but the Bern keeper Yvon Mvogo saved his shot from a tight angle.” Ryu’s header later in the game went right on the path of a surging Kruse, providing a excellent goal scoring opportunity (he missed just wide of the upper right corner). Son Heung-Min was left off the roster, a precaution due to a slight muscle injury. Thus far, Ryu may be exceeding expectations – he seems to be fitting right in with the first team in these test matches, this after just arriving from Jeju. Coach Hyypia is impressed and told Kicker (roughly translated) that “Ryu brings something special, that he plays differently – it’s interesting.”
So hyperfocusing on Hyypia’s words -Ryu plays differently – brings something different? Where have I heard that before? Was it Gus Poyet talking about Ji Dong-Won recently? Anyway, I do remember Hong Myong-Bo talking to the press as he took on the mantle of national team coach last summer about the idea of not trying to be like a European cookie cutter team – or something like that. He seemed to be advocating the idea that he would try make the Taeguk Warriors internationally competitive by playing their own unique brand of Korean style football. Certainly Ryu hadn’t had any European training pedigree before going on loan to Leverkusen. Neither did Cha Bum-Kun before going to Germany in the late 70’s. Not saying Korean football is on par with the top 4 footballing powerhouses of the world – but due to factors, such as culture or the physical distances from other footballing areas of the world – is there a different style of playing that characterizes Korean football – one that may have given a player like Ryu “something different” to a team like Bayer in their pursuit of footballing excellence?
Have fun this weekend. Chal ga-yo!
PS, I had incorrectly called Lee Chung-Yong the Double Dragon in an email exchange with Jae recently. He was good enough to inform me the Double Dragon tag dealt with both Lee and Ki Sung-Yeung- when they were both at FC Seoul. He spelled the meaning via kangji characters: Lee Chung-Yong is nicknamed “The Blue Dragon” (靑/청 = blue, 龍/용 = dragon). Neat! Korean name translations 101.