Putting it on the line

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Mar 4, 2014 - 19:44
  • Updated : Mar 4, 2014 - 19:44
ATHENS (Yonhap) ― As he wrapped up his first practice on Monday with the South Korean men’s national soccer team getting ready to face Greece, forward Park Chu-young said there will be no excuse for him to be out of form despite his lack of playing time of late.

Park, of Watford in England’s second division, has been named to the squad for Wednesday’s friendly against Greece.

The match will kick off at 7 p.m. in the Greek capital, or 2 a.m. on Thursday in South Korea.
Korea forward Park Chu-young takes part in a practice session in Greece on Monday. (Yonhap)

The 28-year-old is on the national team for the first time in 13 months. Over that time, the much-maligned forward had been on the outside looking in, as South Korea played a series of matches in the buildup to the World Cup that’s taking place in Brazil this June.

He had mostly been confined to the bench on the Premier League club Arsenal in the past three seasons. His brief loan stint with Celta Vigo in Spain during the 2012-2013 season also proved to be unsuccessful.

Then in a dramatic turn, Park was loaned to Watford on the final day of the January transfer window, and he will likely see more action there than he had with Arsenal.

Though he has yet to play much for the new club, Park told reporters in Athens on Monday that he will give all he has while with the national team.

“I may not be in optimal game shape but that can never be an excuse,” Park said. “I will try to show everything I have and leave it to our coaches to decide (whether I can play at the World Cup).”

Hong Myung-bo, the national team head coach, has said the Greece match will be the final match for players on the bubble for the World Cup roster, which will be announced in late May.

The magnitude of the occasion wasn’t lost on Park, either.

“All I have ahead of the match will be the two days of practices,” the forward said.

“There’s a lot of pressure because it will be my last opportunity before the World Cup. I just want to be someone who can blend in with the rest of the team.”

Asked whether he felt a little out of place training with the national team after a long absence, Park said, “I know most of the players, and so it was OK. My teammates have been helping me out a lot, and I am really grateful.”

At the onset of his senior team career last summer, Hong said he would not select players to the national squad if they weren’t playing regularly on their respective clubs. Park had not been an exception to that rule until now.

Park leads all players on the current team with 23 goals in 61 international matches.

He has also enjoyed a good rapport with Hong, having played for the former national team captain when he coached South Korea at the 2010 Asian Games and at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Park scored the eventual winner in the country’s 2-0 win over Japan in the bronze-medal contest of the 2012 London Games.