Young midfielder takes veterans’ advice to heart ahead of Asiad

South Korean midfielder Hong Hyun-seok spent the early part of the recent FIFA international window with the men's senior national team. After playing in a goalless draw against Wales last Thursday, Hong traveled back home to join the under-24 national team preparing for the Asian Games this month.

Toggling between the two squads with different coaches hasn't been an issue, Hong said Thursday before a training session with the Asiad squad. Instead, he can't wait to apply lessons he took from veterans on the senior team to his first Asian Games appearance.

"It's an honor to be able to compete for both teams," Hong said at the National Football Center in Paju, north of Seoul in Gyeonggi Province. "The Asian Games are just around the corner. I am excited, and I am going to prepare the best I can."

The opening ceremony for the Asian Games will be in Hangzhou, China, on Sept. 23. But the group stage for the men's football tournament will begin early next week, and South Korea's first Group E match will be Tuesday against Kuwait.

The senior national team featured some members of the 2018 Asian Games gold medal-winning squad, such as Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur, Kim Min-jae of Bayern Munich and Hwang Ui-jo of Norwich City. Hong, who plies his club trade for KAA Gent, said he tried to pick their brains about the Asian Games experience.

"They said this won't be an easy competition," Hong said. "They told me to brace myself for some difficult stretches, and they talked about how important it is for everyone to come together and compete as one."

At the senior national team camp, the versatile midfielder said he also learned how to play at a high tempo and how to help out on defense more efficiently.

"I realized how much sharper I have to be for the Asian Games," said Hong, adding that he is ready to take on any role that head coach Hwang Sun-hong demands.

On the other hand, Hong said he won't put too much pressure on himself.

"I just want to focus on playing the way I am capable of playing," the 24-year-old said. "I think I'll be just fine if I can take care of my business."

Source: Yonhap News Agency