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After World Cup, Ki mulls retirement from national team

July 02,2018
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Ki Sung-yueng poses in his Newcastle United jersey after signing a two-year contract on Friday. [NEWCASTLE UNITED]
Ki Sung-yueng, captain of the Korean men’s football team, hinted at his retirement from the team on Sunday after Korea’s early exit from the FIFA World Cup.

The team failed to reach the round of 16 after finishing third in Group F with one win and two losses. Korea lost 1-0 to Sweden and fell 2-1 to Mexico but claimed a historic 2-0 win over defending champion Germany in their group stage campaign.

“I can’t confirm whether I will certainly retire as I cannot make the decision on my own,” Ki told reporters after arriving at Incheon International Airport. “But I did organize my thoughts to some extent.”

Ki said he has been thinking a lot about his role with the national team. He was the most experienced player on the Korean squad at this year’s World Cup, with 104 caps. This was already his third World Cup.

“For the last four years as a captain, I felt responsible for not leading this team well,” he said. “I also felt sad when our players were struggling, and I also had a difficult time when Korean football was heavily criticized.”

The 29-year-old midfielder said he has consulted with many people about his career with the national team.

“In a situation where Korean football needs to prepare a four-year plan again, I’m not sure whether I can help this team,” he said. “I’ve seen many coaches come and go and feel considerable responsibility on my shoulders as a captain, so that has really tired me out, but I haven’t made up my mind yet. I will announce it when the time comes.”

Ki, however, confirmed that this would be his last World Cup. He missed Korea’s final group stage match against Germany due to a calf injury.

“I have mixed feelings because this is my last World Cup,” he said. “There were many difficult moments, but as captain, I want to thank our players for not giving up until the last moment. If we had prepared for the World Cup more systemically, I think we would have had better results.”

Ki said he hoped the team’s players could make improvements after experiencing this year’s World Cup.

“It’s a pity that we can’t call it a success considering our results, but I feel proud that the players gave a memorable performance in the last group stage match,” he said. “I hope the players can prepare well for the next four years and improve Korean football.”

The Korean team returned home on Friday, but Ki did not join them. He flew to England to complete his move from Swansea City to Newcastle United in the English Premier League.

“When I started playing in Europe, I cared about the national team whenever I made decisions,” he said. “Until now, I’ve sacrificed for the national team and I consider the national team important, so I picked a club where I could play many games. But now that the World Cup is over, I don’t have to do it that way.”

Ki, who also had stints with Celtic and Sunderland, said playing for Newcastle would probably his final challenge in Europe.

“It’s true that the competition for starting spots is fiercer than before, but it’s the biggest team that I’ve signed with, and I think I can learn something with this club,” he said. “That’s why I chose Newcastle, because those things really attracted me.”

Yonhap