FOZ DO IGUACU, Brazil (Yonhap) ― South Korean defensive back Hong Jeong-ho, who recently came down with a bruised foot, has been cleared by team doctors to play and is doing relatively well physically.
It’s the mental block that needs to be cleared, the 24-year-old said Wednesday.
“When I try to make quick turns, I become conscious of the pain, and I can’t make plays I normally do because of that,” Hong said after he and his teammates held their first practice at their World Cup base camp in Foz do Iguacu in southern Brazil.
South Korea will open the tournament against Russia on Tuesday, with matches against Algeria and Belgium to follow.
Hong, who plays for FC Augsburg in the Bundesliga, suffered the injury on May 28 during a friendly against Tunisia, as South Korea lost 1-0. He was stretchered off the field and looked to have suffered a serious injury, though the final diagnosis was a bone bruise with no structural damage.
|Defensive back Hong Jeong-ho (Yonhap)|
Hong was a second-half substitute in South Korea’s 4-0 loss to Ghana on Monday in Miami but even the usually reliable defender couldn’t save the team from the embarrassing loss.
Hong had been a fixture as one of South Korea’s two centerbacks, alongside Kim Young-gwon, since head coach Hong Myung-bo took the reins last summer. The two backs have complemented each other well, though neither has been immune to lapses of concentration.
Hong Jeong-ho said he will try to ensure better cohesion on the back line through communication with his teammates. He said he also wants to focus on getting better in time for the match against Russia.
Coach Hong said he has tried to share with the player his own experience of playing through an injury. Hong also suffered a bone bruise on his foot in a friendly against France, only days before the start of the 2002 World Cup.