Slumping forward Hwang Ui-jo remains confident ahead of World Cup debut

DOHA– His recent struggles with a new club in Greece notwithstanding, South Korean forward Hwang Ui-jo said Monday he is still confident he can turn things around at the upcoming FIFA World Cup.

“I feel great. I’ve been preparing hard for this moment,” Hwang told reporters before South Korea’s first training session at Al Egla Training Facility in Doha. The South Korean team arrived here earlier Monday, and Hwang became the first of eight Europe-based players to land in Qatar Sunday evening.
“Since this is my first World Cup, I’ve been putting in a lot of work, mentally and physically,” the 30-year-old forward for Olympiacos FC added. “I think the training environment here is great. We should be able to focus only on football without distractions.”

Hwang’s poor form of late has been a source of concern for fans, though head coach Paulo Bento has insisted he has never been worried about Hwang. The forward has scored 15 goals since Bento took over South Korea in August 2018, more than any other national team player in that span.

But after leaving the French club FC Girondins de Bordeaux this past summer, Hwang signed with the Premier League club Nottingham Forest, who immediately loaned him to Olympiacos in Greece. Hwang scored 23 goals over the past two seasons in France but has yet to find the back of the net in 11 total appearances for the Greek team.

While Hwang’s stock has been dropping, the one other forward on the World Cup squad, Cho Gue-sung of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, has emerged as a potential threat to Hwang’s grip on the starting striker position.

“There is always some sort of competition in this position. I know Gue-sung has been playing well and I am happy for him,” Hwang said. “Even though he’s younger, I also try to learn from him. I think we can create positive synergy by competing with each other.”

The onus on the two forwards to create offense will only grow heavier if captain Son Heung-min, currently recovering from a facial surgery, can’t play or faces minutes restriction. Hwang said it was too early to say whether his good friend will be available or not but added, “Even if Heung-min can’t play, I think we should be able to fill that void if all of us can come together.”

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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