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Football: S. Korean captain hints at nat’l team retirement

INCHEON: South Korea’s national football team captain Ki Sung-Yeung has hinted today at international retirement following his country’s early exit at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

South Korea failed to reach the round of 16 at the 2018 World Cup after finishing third in Group F with one win and two losses. South Korea lost 1-0 to Sweden and fell 2-1 to Mexico but claimed a historic 2-0 win over defending champions Germany in their group stage campaign. “I can’t confirm whether I will certainly retire as I cannot make the decision on my own,” Ki told reporters after arriving at Incheon International Airport.

“But I did organize my thoughts to some extent,” Ki said he has been thinking a lot about his role with the national team. He was the most experienced player on the South Korean squad for this year’s World Cup, with 104 caps. Russia 2018 was his third World Cup. “For the last four years as a captain, I felt responsible for not leading this team well,” he said.

“I also felt sad when our players were struggling, and I also had a difficult time when South Korean football was heavily criticized.”

World Cup pieces published earlier:

i) Sweden beat South Korea 1-0 in both countries’ first match at the 2018 World Cup in Russia thanks to a penalty from captain Andreas Granqvist that was awarded thanks to VAR. Kim Min-woo brought down Viktor Claesson in a clumsy challenge and the referee ran to the sidelines to view a video of the incident before pointing to the spot. (Published on 18th June 2018) 

ii)  Battered and bruised by a barrage of Swiss fouls, Neymar hobbled out the Rostov Arena having failed to inspire the expected start to Brazil’s World Cup, after the pre-tournament favorites were held to a 1-1 draw by Switzerland.The world’s most expensive player told journalists there was “nothing to worry about” regarding his latest knock, but there is concern whether Neymar can perform to the levels needed to lead his country to a sixth World Cup title, having not played any competitive football for four months ahead of the tournament. Neymar’s season at club level with Paris Saint-Germain ended when breaking a bone in his foot in February. To the frustration of many in the French capital, he spent much of his recovery time back in Brazil with the intention of getting in the best shape possible for a potentially career-defining tournament. A stunning individual run and finish on his return in a pre-tournament friendly against Croatia and his 55th international goal against Austria a week later appeared to quash fears over his fitness.

But as many of the World Cup favorites have found so far in Russia, friendly performances mean little when the competition kicks off for real and Brazil was found wanting against an aggressive and well-organized Swiss side. Neymar was fouled 10 times, more than any player in a single World Cup match since Alan Shearer 20 years ago, and provoked Switzerland’s three yellow cards for Stephan Lichtsteiner, Fabian Schaer, and Valon Behrami. Mexican referee Cesar Ramos’s handling of the Swiss tactics divided opinion among fans and commentators as some called for greater protection for one of the world’s best players, while many believed Neymar was too quick to go to ground. (Published on 18th June 2018) 

iii) Mohamed Salah is a looming obstacle as Russia attempt to virtually secure their place in the knockout stages of the World Cup in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday. Fears that poor performances from the home side could dampen enthusiasm in the host nation were blown away by a 5-0 demolition of Saudi Arabia in the opening game. The seven-time African champions will pose a much tougher task, but a lot will depend upon Salah’s fitness. Liverpool star Salah has not featured since leaving the field in tears early in the Champions League final just over three weeks ago after landing heavily on his left shoulder and had to watch from the bench as Egypt lost 1-0 to Uruguay in their opening game.

Salah has been declared 100 percent fit by Egypt’s team doctor and his agent, leaving little doubt he will be thrown back into action in the Pharaohs’ hour of need. However, as he returned to training on Saturday, Salah was seen by AFP reporters at Egypt’s training camp in Grozny needing help from teammates to lift a training top over his head. “Salah participated in training with his teammates for the entire session and he is ready to play against Russia according to technical staff,” Egypt’s team manager Ihab Leheta told Egypt coach Hector Cuper’s decision not to risk Salah against Uruguay may have been influenced by the fact his side held out for 89 minutes before conceding to Jose Gimenez, by which time the Argentine had made all three of his substitutions. (Published on 18th June 2018) 

M M Alam

M. M. Alam is a Pakistan-based working journalist since 1981. Karachi University faculty gold medalist Alam began his career four decades ago by writing for Dawn, Pakistan’s highest circulating English daily. He has worked for region’s leading publications, global aviation periodicals including Rotors (of USA) and vetted New York Times as permanent employee of daily Express Tribune. Alam regularly covers international aviation and defense-related events including Salon Du Bourget (France), Farnborough (United Kingdom), Dubai (UAE). Alam has reported thousands of events and interviewed hundreds of people in Pakistan, UAE, EU, UK and USA. Being Francophone Alam also coordinates with a number of French publications.