Center back Park Ji-soo (29-Portimonense), who was once dubbed the “Phoenix Man” by K League football fans as a resurgence icon after repeatedly being sent off only to have his call-up overturned, must be feeling pretty good about his return to the national team after a seven-month absence.
Park suffered an ankle injury on Nov. 11 last year in a friendly against Iceland ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, leaving him out of the final World Cup roster announced a day later. “If it wasn’t for the injury, he could have been included,” said A-squad coach Paulo Bento at the time. Park said on social media, “I shed a lot of sweat for four years to be on the best stage that every player dreams of. It’s too bad.” The tournament, which saw South Korea reach the round of 16 for the first time in 12 years, garnered a lot of national attention, so it must have been even more disappointing for Park, who had to watch from afar.
However, ‘Phoenix Soo’ quickly dusted herself off and got back on her feet. After recovering from his injury, he moved to Portuguese first division Portimonense in January and realized his dream of reaching Europe at the age of 29. Park Ji-soo, who showed off his solid defense through Gyeongnam, Guangzhou Hengda, and Gimcheon, pushed aside the existing defenders shortly after joining the team and quickly became a mainstay. Since making his debut against Maritimo on February 19, he has appeared in all 14 remaining Portuguese Primeira Liga matches, helping Portimonense stay in 15th place.
When Klinsmann arrived in February, he had his eye on Park Ji-soo. He was not selected for the March A match, his debut under Jürgen Klinsmann, due to his World Cup squad. However, he was named to the roster for the June A match, which is called the “real first period” of Klinsmann’s program. To replace Kim Min-jae (Napoli) and Kim Young-kwon (Ulsan), who were not selected due to basic military training and injury, Klinsmann called up Park Ji-soo and Kim Joo-sung (Seoul). He selected two left backs, Kwon Kyung-won (Gamba Osaka) and Kim Joo-sung, but only one right back, Park Ji-soo. Midfielder Won Doo-jae (Gimcheon) can double as a center back, but it’s likely that Park will be tested against Peru on the 16th and El Salvador on the 20th. 스포츠토토
If given the chance, he will need to minimize the impact of Kim Min-jae, the first Asian to win Serie A’s best defender award. Park, who will be making his first appearance for the national team as a European, is confident, saying, “There are a lot of changes in the defense line. I hope we can maintain our consistency and rhythm, which will be difficult in June,” said Klinsmann. That way, he can remain a ‘regular’ even after the return of key defenders and improve his chances of qualifying for the Qatar Asian Cup next January.