Korea Republic coach Huh Jung-Moo has praised Park Ji-Sung for carrying the burden of the nation's 2010 FIFA World Cup™ hopes on his shoulders. The 29-year-old Manchester United midfielder will lead his side in their last-16 battle with Uruguay in Port Elizabeth this afternoon determined to extend his stay in South Africa as he dreams of a repeat of the 2002 run to the semi-finals.
Park is not only captain of his country, but also one of the most influential player's in Huh's side and as such, bears a huge responsibility. However, his manager is delighted with the way he is handling the pressure and still producing on the pitch.
Huh said: "Many people were quite surprised at my choice. I actually told him [Park] on the way here in the car that he must have a headache because of all the burden, I have to admit that. But the burden I have given him is probably good for the future of Korean football, and we are more than satisfied in the way he has played.
"He is doing a great job as the captain. He has also been up to his best in his performances in games and the way he interacts with his team-mates, both his superiors and his subordinates. I am sure he has some troubles himself, but he has been doing wonderfully and I am more than satisfied."
Park modestly shrugged off the plaudits, insisting his team-mates need little extra attention from him. He said: "All of the players in the national team are in professional teams, so they know what they have to do. They know better than anyone else. All I can do is to help them so they can be prepared in a more comfortable and convenient atmosphere. What they show on the pitch comes from they themselves."
While some of Europe's big guns are already on their way home, both Korea Republuc and Japan will fly the flag for Asia in the second round. The pair, of course, co-hosted the tournament eight years ago and both reached the second round then, but the same achievement this time around is perhaps more notable.
Huh said: "It's a great honour for Asian teams. In 2002, Korea and Japan both made it into the second round, but this is the first time that both teams have made it into the second round on foreign soil. It goes to show how much Asian football has grown and it also shows that Asian teams can do it through what they have learned from Europe and elsewhere."
Korean tradition has it that great adventures are dreamt of in advance, but asked if he had had any dreams before the tournament, Huh replied: "I don't recall. Nothing in particular, I don't think. "I did have a bunch of dreams, but I don't remember them. I don't think it was anything significant."