Thu, 28 Oct, 2021
Australia holds a special place in the life of Korea Republic’s Ki Sung-yueng, and the 25-year-old has set his sights on claiming Korea Republic’s first AFC Asian Cup title in 55 years when the tournament is played Down Under in January.
The Koreans have not won the AFC Asian Cup since claiming back-to-back titles in the first two tournaments in 1956 and 1960 and, despite impressing in Qatar in 2011, Ki and his team mates are determined that long wait will finally come to an end.
“The first thing is we want to win the Asian Cup and the second thing is we want to show that we are one of the best teams in Asia,” says the Swansea City midfielder.
“Recently we didn’t show the fans that we are a really good team and we are strong enough to be champion. So maybe some people are very disappointed with Korean football.
“But as I said we have great potential. We have a lot of young players and then some very experienced players. I think this time that we can show to the people that we can perform well in Australia and be champion.”
Ki was instrumental in Korea’s run to the semi-finals of the 2011 edition of the continental championship when, despite impressing throughout the tournament, Cho Kwang-rae’s side slipped out of contention with a penalty shootout loss against Japan.
It was a disappointing end for a team that had dassled at times in Qatar, with Koo Ja-cheol finishing the tournament as top scorer in a team inspired by retiring veteran Park Ji-sung and also featuring the goal scoring talents of Ji Dong-won.
The Koreans defeated Uzbekistan to finish third in the tournament, booking the last of the automatic qualification berths for the 2015 event, and Ki is hoping he and his team mates can go further in Australia in January.
“I think the competition in Qatar was very, very good,” he says. “We played well I think, but we didn’t become champion.
“Even though we played good football we didn’t get the result, so this time I think I don’t care if we play attractive football or play well, but I think this time we want to get some results and we want to be champion. So it doesn’t matter how we play, we should win the Asian Cup.”
Playing in Australia will be of particular significance for Ki, who spent his teenage years in Brisbane and the tournament will give him the chance to reconnect with old friends from his youth.
“This is like my second country,” says Ki of Australia. “I was there for four years when I was growing up, so I feel like my hometown is in Australia. It’s also going to be great to see some of my friends there in Australia. I think they expecting a lot of things from me. So it’s going to be great chance to see them and great chance to go back to Australia.”
And Ki will be hoping he can leave on February 1 with the AFC Asian Cup trophy packed into his luggage bound for Seoul.