S. Korean defender eager to take on Ronaldo with extra force

DOHA– Ever since sitting out an exhibition match in Seoul before a sellout crowd of 65,000 in 2019, Portugal football great Cristiano Ronaldo has been Public Enemy No. 1 among Korean football fans.

With South Korea set to take on Portugal at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar later this month, South Korean defender Kim Tae-hwan wants to exact revenge on behalf of fans back home.
“If I do get to play in that match, I will have (the Ronaldo incident) on my mind,” Kim said at a press conference prior to a training session at Al Egla Training Site in Doha on Friday. “I will try to play extra hard against him.”

Kim has not yet locked down a starting job in the right fullback position, the most wide-open position and also the weakest hole in the South Korean lineup. Kim Moon-hwan and Yoon Jong-gyu are the two other candidates. Whereas those two are energetic, offensive-minded types, Kim Tae-hwan brings more of a physical presence to the position.

Head coach Paulo Bento may not settle on one player and instead choose to rotate among the three, depending on the matchup.

Either way, Kim is counting his blessings in Doha. At 33, he is the oldest South Korean player here. With an understanding, or even resignation, that this will likely be his last trip to the big quadrennial tournament, Kim wants to savor every moment here.

“I wake up every morning thinking about what I need to do, and where I need to improve,” Kim said. “I’ve been giving my best every day.”

Kim has earned 14 of his 19 caps under Bento, who took the helm in September 2018. Kim echoed the sentiment expressed earlier by his teammates that having the same bench boss for the entire four-year buildup from one World Cup to the next has instilled a sense of calm and stability in the locker room.

“The coach is very detail oriented, and we’ve all been pulling in the same direction with consistency,” Kim said. “Whether it’s different types of exercises in training or it’s the way we prepare for different opponents, the coaching staff has been giving us straightforward, easy-to-understand messages.

“We haven’t had major changes to the squad over the four years,” Kim continued. “And that has given the players a great understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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