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Ji Sung Park on Korea's Chances, Son Heung Min & 'Asian Gap'

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For Korea Republic, is surviving the group phase the main goal in Russia?
Park Jisung: Yeah, I think so. There is still a gap between Asian teams and those at a world-class level, so that means we can’t aim for the semi-finals or whatever. First of all, we need to get through the group stage. And if you look at the draw and the seedings, most Asian teams were in Pot 4. That tells you that we are still a weak continent compared to others. So it will be so difficult for us to get through the group phase, and we need to focus on that. For all Asian teams, that will be the big target.

Tell us about Ki Sungyeung and Son Heungmin. Are they Korea Republic’s most important players?
I think that’s fair to say, yes. These two guys are very important for our team. Both have already been to the World Cup, they have experience - and they have experience of playing against the best players. That benefits them but it also allows them to bring that experience to the other players.

Have increased opportunities to play abroad helped the Korea Republic team?
I think it has benefited us because at the moment we can’t prepare like we did for the 2002 World Cup. Back then, most of the players were playing in Korea and we could gather together for a training camp. These days, that’s not possible because most of our players play abroad and we need to stick to FIFA’s regulations for training dates and matches, which are already fixed. 

So, because training time together is limited, it’s very important that our players go abroad to gain experience of playing against strong teams and players. That can then raise the level of the national team, and that’s why I have always encouraged South Korean players to move abroad, particularly to Europe, so they can adapt to the highest level and improve themselves.

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