“Of course there’s pressure, but we’re seniors, so we have to shake it off.”
Hwang Sun-hong (Ulsan Hyundai), a key member of Hwang’s team that will be trying to win a third consecutive Asian Games, echoed the sentiment, saying, “It’s something we have to do.” “The seniors played so well in the last two tournaments, and I know the public’s expectations are high because of that,” he said, vowing to fulfill them once again.메이저놀이터
When we met at the Hyundai Sports Clubhouse in Dong-gu, Ulsan, on Nov. 16, Uhm Won-sang’s expression was brighter than expected. It’s hard to believe that this is the same athlete who suffered an injury just two months ago that nearly ended his participation in the Hangzhou Asian Games. He tore a ligament in his right ankle in the first trial match against China on June 15 at Jinhua Stadium in Zhejiang Province, China. Uhm Won-sang, who scored two goals that day, was unable to play the second trial and had to return home early.
“It was a feeling I never want to feel again,” he said, recalling the situation. “I was playing well, but I kept thinking, ‘Why me, and why now,’” he said. “When I had my first examination at a local hospital before returning home, I was told that I had a microfracture, so the whole flight home was very difficult.”
Luckily for him, he avoided a fracture and returned to the field against Jeju on March 21, and scored the winning goal in the ‘Hyundai Street Derby’ against Jeonbuk Hyundai on March 19 to secure a 1-0 victory. It was a quicker return and performance than expected. Normally, ligament tears take six to eight weeks to heal and rehabilitate. “I didn’t do anything special, I just took it easy,” Uhm said, laughing, “The harder I worked, the worse the injury got.” But he’s not out of the woods yet. “My ankle still swells up after the game,” he said, “but the swelling is getting less and less,” explaining his current condition.
Ko Young-jun (Pohang Steelers) tore a knee ligament in the exhibition match against China, while Cho Young-wook (Gimcheon Commerce) and Song Min-kyu (Jeonbuk) were knocked down by the opponent’s rough play, leading to criticism that the match against China did more harm than good.
However, Uhm Won-sang emphasized that “Korea’s three group games will be played at Jinhua Stadium, the same stadium where we played China.” “It’s a big plus to experience the stadium atmosphere, grass condition, and humidity beforehand,” he said. “The majority of our players have not played a game without a video assistant referee (VAR) since their professional debut,” he added, “and this is another valuable experience we gained from the China game.” It is likely that VAR will not be implemented at the Asian Games, as it was in China.
For the national team, the biggest variable is the availability of Lee Kang-in (Paris Saint-Germain/PSG). Lee’s participation in the Asian Games is uncertain due to a recent thigh injury. In addition to the injury, there is no clear agreement between the club and the national team on a loan agreement. Lee’s “best friend” Uhm Won-sang said, “I don’t ask him directly if he’s going to play because I don’t want him to feel pressure,” but added, “I did ask him what kind of training he did during the national team call-ups (before his injury) and what he was preparing for.
Uhm Won-sang and Lee Kang-in were the mainstays of the 2019 U-20 World Cup runners-up in Poland. The team also included Choi Young-wook (Busan IPark), Lee Jae-ik (Seoul Eland), and Lee Kwang-yeon (Gangwon FC). The 1999 teammates, who have grown up a lot since then, have been talking a lot about recreating the glory of four years ago. “We were able to do well at the U-20 World Cup because we all worked together with one goal in mind,” said Uhm Won-sang. “We talked a lot about ‘making the atmosphere fun’ and ‘going as a one-man team’.”
However, there are concerns about the lack of weight in the front line. “We have (Cho) Young-wook, and Park Jae-yong (Jeonbuk) and Ahn Jae-joon (Bucheon FC) are also playing in the league,” said Uhm Won-sang, adding, “We will definitely show good form at the Asian Games.”
On the other hand, the second line is considered to be the best ever. “I’m worried about whether I can play,” said Uhm Won-sang, “I have to compete with Lee Kang-in, Song Min-kyu (Jeonbuk), Jung Woo-young (Stuttgart), and Ko Young-joon. However, I am confident because I have a role to play.”
Ulsan Hyundai will also send Seol Young-woo to Hangzhou along with Uhm Won-sang. “I believe they will do well without me and Seol Young-woo. The best case scenario is that Korea wins the gold medal at the Asian Games and Ulsan clinches the title (during the Asian Games),” he laughed.