S. Korean midfielder gearing up for potentially last World Cup

PAJU, South Korea– South Korean midfielder Son Jun-ho believes he has what it takes to make the 26-man World Cup roster set to be announced Saturday.

If Son is selected by head coach Paulo Bento, the 30-year-old will be on a World Cup team for the first time. And it could also be his last time, which has added to the sense of urgency.
“I’ll be 34 four years later. Considering my age and my skill level right now, I consider this my last opportunity to play at the World Cup,” Son told reporters Wednesday before a training session at the National Football Center in Paju, north of Seoul in Gyeonggi Province. “I’ve always dreamed of participating in the World Cup before I retire. I’d love to make the squad.”

Son is one of 27 players at Bento’s final training camp before the big tournament, which kicks off on Nov. 20 in Qatar. Bento has called up players from around Asia, with Europe-based players not available since the camp isn’t part of the FIFA international calendar. Bento will have one final look at players on the roster bubble when South Korea face Iceland Friday night.

The camp opened on Oct. 28, but Son was the last player to report, having only arrived Tuesday. He has precious little time to get ready for Iceland.

“Whenever I came to Paju, I took each day as if it’d be my last day for the national team,” Son said. “I’ll give everything I have and make the coach take notice.”

Son shouldn’t worry too much about his status, though. The 2020 K League 1 MVP, who now plays in China for Shandong Taishan FC, is just the type of smart and versatile midfielder who can be integral to Bento’s signature buildup plays. He earned high marks in South Korea’s most recent friendly match against Cameroon on Sept. 27.

But Son said he wasn’t entirely pleased with his own performance then.

“I made some good plays on the attack, but I let opponents get past me a few times on defense. I felt I had so much more work to do on the defensive side of things,” Son said. “I’ve been working really hard the past couple of months in China, because we’re going to be playing even tougher teams at the World Cup.”

Son said he is confident in his passing skills and his ability to cover a lot of ground.

“If my strengths can fit into the coach’s scheme, I think I should make the World Cup team,” Son said. “I am confident I can beat anyone for the defensive midfielder position.”

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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