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Park backs Asian teams to challenge

Manchester United’s former South Korea international Park Ji-Sung says he can see an Asian nation winning the FIFA World Cup in the future.

The 31-year-old midfielder, who retired from international duty after the 2011 Asian Cup, told the China Daily earlier this week the gap between teams from Asia and the best of Europe and South America was narrowing.

“At the moment it is still difficult (for an Asian nation to win the World Cup),” he said.

“There is a gap between us and the world-class level, so we still have to improve. But in the past few years, the quality of Asian football has gotten better and we have proved we can deal with world-class teams.

“So, if Asian teams work hard and continue to develop, one day they will have success at the World Cup.”

Park, who left Kyoto Sanga in 2002 for PSV Eindhoven, before joining United in 2005, said succeeding in Europe was still a challenge for Asian players.

“Some players aren’t able to show their ability in Europe but some players can – I think the most important quality in the successful players is that they are mentally strong,” he said.

“Also, there is an element of luck involved – sometimes teams are doing well and sometimes they are not. If you have luck on your side and are strong mentally, you can succeed in Europe.”

“The most important thing you have to do (to be successful) is work hard, but the players also need to have the ability to play in Europe.

“The biggest thing for Asian players to remember is the football style is different in Europe – as is the culture – so they have to accept that. Mentally, they need to be ready, and very strong.”

Sat 7 Apr, 2012
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