‘Seoul Saved’ Captain Ki Sung-yong “Korean Football Isn’t Going Backwards… Olympic Juniors Should Grow, Not Be Discouraged”

Veterans shine in crisis. Captain Ki Sung-yong, the “spiritual anchor of FC Seoul,” saved the day for Seoul. Kim Ki-dong’s side halted Suwon FC’s four-game winning streak to escape a three-game losing streak and jump to fifth place in the league.

Seoul won 2-0 at home against Suwon in the 10th round of the Hana Bank K League 1 2024 at the Suwon Sports Complex at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, thanks to Kim Shin-jin’s 43rd-minute opener and Ki Sung-yong’s 20th-minute wedge.

After three straight losses to Pohang (2-4), Jeonbuk (2-3) and Daejeon (1-3), Seoul was desperate for a turnaround against Suwon. “I don’t think I’ve ever conceded 10 goals in three games as a player. It hurts my pride as a coach,” said head coach Kim Ki-dong, who fielded an anti-war squad. Young guns such as Lee Tae-seok, who returned from the Olympic team, Park Sung-hoon, Hwang Do-yoon, Kang Sung-jin, and Lee Seung-jun, who was born in 2003, and Lee Seung-jun, who was born in 2004, were all on the field. Among the young guns, veterans such as captain Ki Sung-yong and Kim Sang-hyeop took the center stage. Speaking about veteran Ki Sung-yong, Coach Kim said, “I’ve been asking him to play the entire season. The team is difficult, so if I ask Sung-yong to rest, the center will be loose and there will be no one to lead the team.”

After Kim Shin-jin’s goal at the end of the first half, Suwon’s offense was hot in the second half in search of a makeup goal. In the 20th minute of the second half, Ki Sung-yong’s trademark, mid-range shot split the net following a pass from Kim Sang-gyeon. It became the wedge that decided the victory. It was the second goal of the season after Jeju. Above all, it showed the strength of a veteran in a time of crisis for Seoul.

In his post-match interview, Ki Sung-yong said, “We made mistakes in the offense because we were in a hurry, and today we focused on the defense. We won without conceding a goal,” he said, expressing his joy at the clean sheet.

“Looking back at the last three games, I was very disappointed with our performance against Pohang and Jeonbuk. We put our center of gravity in the front, which caused problems with our defense spacing. In the Daejeon game, we were under pressure after two consecutive losses, so we had to show a good performance without conceding goals, but that situation made it physically difficult. It wasn’t that they played well, but we gave up too much space,” he reflected. “After the game, we watched the video and discussed what we lacked. The coach asked for spacing and in defense, we watched the Arsenal-Tottenham game and talked to the players. We talked about how the best players in the world have great defensive concentration and spacing,” he explained. Ki Sung-yueng added: “I think that’s what we did well today. The attackers sacrificed themselves to defend, and the defenders stayed focused. We need to sacrifice and focus every game, not just today,” he said. “Even world-class players are showing that they can work non-stop for 90 minutes despite the physical demands. If we want to do well, we have to strengthen our defense and then chances will come. We need to improve and continue to show the kind of performance we had today.”

“Whenever Suwon comes in, goals come out, and I scored two goals here last year,” Ki Sung-yueng smiled when asked about the goal. “(Im) Sang-hyeop gave 토토사이트 me a good pass at a good time, and even though he had a defensive touch, I had a chance to take a shot. In offensive chances, I always try to be bold and take a shot. If I get the chance, I’ll try to take more mid-range shots from the opponent’s defense,” he said, adding that he is hungry for goals. “I came to FC Seoul with three goals, which is the most I’ve scored in a season, and I’ll try to beat that record,” he added.

When asked about coach Kim Ki-dong’s suggestion to play the entire match, Ki Sung-yong replied, “I don’t think he’s trying to reduce my performance. It’s a joke,” he laughed. “I’m grateful that the coach gave me the opportunity. I have no personal greed. If the coach asks me to prepare, I do it, and if he needs to make a substitution, I do it. If I have to prepare outside the starting lineup, that’s my role. It’s my job to do my best in every moment, and it’s my job as a team captain to be a support,” he said. “Of course, it’s not easy. It’s not easy when you’re 35 years old and you’re playing. It’s a challenge for me. But I’ll try to give the team as much strength as I can. I’ve been doing well without injury so far, so I’ll do my best in the future.” Ki Sung-yong emphasized the role of communication as the senior players shone in the crisis. “We try to talk a lot. There is a 15-16 year age difference. I try to approach them first. Some juniors find it difficult. Sometimes it’s difficult because there’s so much age difference, but I try to keep communicating and let them know.We talk a lot about soccer. We talk a lot about soccer, what shouldn’t be done, what should be done this way.”

It was the first time Ki Sung-yueng had played against his England and national team teammate, Suwon FC forward Ji Dong-won, who he played with in Seoul until last season. The pair trained separately in Australia last winter to get in shape. “He kept calling me before the game,” Ki Sung-yong said. I was really looking forward to it. I’ve been playing with him for a long time, so it was quite strange to meet him today,” he confessed. “Dongwon is getting more playing time at Suwon FC. We’ve been in frequent contact and have been encouraging each other a lot. It’s always a different feeling when you meet players you played with in the past in the national team or overseas in the K League. It’s a healthy competition, and it’s good for the fans to see them strive for their positions. I hope that the players who are famous and experienced will be able to help develop the K League for the fans,” he concluded.

Ki Sung-yong, who won the country’s first bronze medal at the London Olympics 12 years ago, offered words of encouragement to his juniors after they failed to qualify for their 10th consecutive Olympics. “I don’t think it’s a regression in Korean soccer,” he clarified, “I don’t think it’s a regression,” he said, adding that FC Seoul also has players who have been to the Olympics. “There will be mixed feelings about the result. I’ve had many failures myself. I also had some disappointing days at the World Cup,” he said. ”I don’t want them to be disappointed and frustrated. We missed the Olympic opportunity, but if we use this time to improve and fill in the gaps, failure will become a stepping stone to success,” he said.

“I don’t think Korean soccer has regressed,” he insisted. “Many players like Son Heung-min, Lee Kang-in, Kim Min-jae, Hwang Hee-chan, Hwang In-beom and others are doing well overseas. I don’t think we’ve lost or regressed, but we need to be a little more organized and planful. It’s not just one person’s effort, it’s the effort of footballers, and everyone on the field, off the field, and players must work together to ensure the long-term development of Korean soccer,” he said. “We just finished the World Cup in Qatar (Round of 16). The national team is strong because we have players who are globally competitive, and if we take the failure as a learning experience and pay more attention to preparing for the next World Cup, we can do well because we have enough players. I want to help develop Korean soccer and I want to help as a senior,” he said. “I hope that the players of the Olympic team will not be disappointed and frustrated, but will use the disappointment as a whip to utilize the good opportunities in the future,” he reiterated.

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