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Hong worried about media spotlight on striker Park

INCHEON (Yonhap) ― Hong Myung-bo, the head coach of the South Korean men’s national football team, said Friday he is concerned about the excessive amount of media attention being paid to forward Park Chu-young. Hong returned from Athens, where South Korea defeated Greece 2-0 in the countries’ pre-World Cup friendly on Wednesday.

Park scored the first goal in that win. It was Park’s first international appearance in more than a year, and his first goal for South Korea since November 2011. Even though he only played the first half of the match, Park made headlines afterward as the possible solution to South Korea’s scoring woes.

Speaking to reporters on Friday at Incheon International Airport, Hong said it wouldn’t serve the rest of the team well if one player received all the media spotlight.

“A lot of players performed well against Greece, but the media focus was entirely on Park Chu-young,” he said. “I don‘t think it’s a positive situation for our team as we get ready for the World Cup.”

Park had spent most of the past three seasons on the bench for Arsenal in the English Premier League. He was loaned to Watford, a second division club in England, in late January. Though he has yet to play much for the new team, Park is expected to see much more action than he had for Arsenal.

Hong has frequently stressed that players must be playing on a regular basis on their respective pro clubs in order to be considered for the national team. The coach made an exception with Park this time, saying he wanted to see the forward at least once before the World Cup, and the player responded with a goal.

After the match, Hong sang his praises of Park’s performance, but the player himself declined to speak to the press.

“I don’t know what was going through his mind at the time,” Hong said. “He must have been under a lot of pressure because it was his first game with the national team in a long time.”

Hong remained effusive about Park on Friday, saying it seemed to him as though the player had never missed a beat.

“He knew what kind of plays he was supposed to make,” the coach said. “He was already familiar with our tactics, and he adjusted quickly.”

Hong said Wednesday that he wanted to keep Park in for more but had to take him out after the opening half because of a knee injury. He informed reporters Friday that the team doctors said Park should rest for about two weeks.

South Korea is scheduled to host Tunisia on May 28. The team will gather for a training camp on May 12, 30 days before the start of the FIFA tournament, at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, north of Seoul.

The May camp is expected to feature 30 players on the provisional World Cup roster. The final 23-man roster will be announced on May 29, and the team will leave for Florida on May 30 to set up its final pre-World Cup camp.

South Korea is paired with Algeria, Belgium and Russia in Group H, and will open the tournament against Russia on June 17.

It will be South Korea‘s eighth consecutive appearance in the World Cup and its ninth overall.

Hong said the fullback positions on defense and the goalkeeping job are still up for grabs among multiple players.

“Since we have a few players in Europe, we will have to monitor their performances in their leagues from now until May,” Hong said.

“Nothing has been set in stone as far as our roster.”