It has been more than 15 days since the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar came to an end, but national soccer team striker Na Sang-ho (27, FC Seoul) recalled the memories of that time and said, “It still feels like a dream and I am happy.” The moment they stepped on the grass at Education City Stadium, the moment they were running towards the ‘Red Devils’ after confirming their advance to the round of 16, and even the smile they had with a Korean flag with ‘The important thing is an unbreakable heart’ written on it.
Ilgan Sports met Na Sang-ho, who successfully completed his first World Cup, at GS Champions Park in Guri, Gyeonggi-do. After spending a tight schedule such as media interviews and club events, Na Sang-ho began quenching for the 2023 season. He said, “It’s true that I’m tired from my busy schedule, but isn’t it all good intentions? Rather, I am just grateful (for calling me)” and smiled.
Na Sang-ho has become a ‘popular star’ to the extent that it is difficult to coordinate an interview schedule. He showed a strong impact in the first leg of the group stage match against Uruguay (1-1 draw) in Qatar. He did not have an attack point, but the fans were moved by the way he ran so much that his head was thrown back until the 29th minute of the second half. Na Sang-ho was embarrassed, saying, “I only thought that if I lost the ball, I would have to chase the opponent until I was out of breath.”
Initially, the position of the right striker in the Qatar tournament was a concern. Hwang Hee-chan (Wolverhampton) missed the first and second games of the group stage due to a hamstring (muscle behind the thigh) injury. A question mark was attached to Na Sang-ho and Kwon Chang-hoon (Chief Executive Officer Kim Cheon). However, Na Sang-ho filled Hwang Hee-chan’s place with good performance. Hwang Hee-chan, who recovered from his injury, scored the winning goal after receiving a pass from Son Heung-min (Tottenham) in the final match against Portugal in the group stage.
Na Sang-ho said, “From the start of the 2022 season, I thought, ‘I must prepare well and be selected for the final entry for the World Cup. Of course, he paid more attention to his team’s performance during the season. He confirmed his stay in the K-League 1, and after the Korea Football Association (FA) Cup final was over, he spurred preparations for the World Cup,” he said. He said, ‘Finally, it’s my first game’ and I was excited.” 메이저놀이터
It is said that the atmosphere of the Qatar national team was friendly. Na Sang-ho also looked back and said, “The relationship between seniors and juniors in the team was really good.” He spent most of his time with his peers. They are Kim Moon-hwan (28, Jeonbuk Hyundai) Hwang Hee-chan, Hwang In-beom (Olympiacos) Kim Min-jae (Napoli) Cho Yu-min (27, Daejeon Hana Citizen) and Baek Seung-ho (26, Jeonbuk). Na Sang-ho laughed, saying, “Except for exercise and bedtime, I always stuck together in ‘Na Sang-Ho’s Room’.”
They often met at the table tennis court in the dorm. Na Sang-ho said, “I can’t really play table tennis. I felt sorry for myself, but thanks to Inbeom’s help, my skills improved a little in Qatar. Still, the opponent I had a chance to try was Moon Hwan-hyung. I have a penholder grip,” he said. “Seungho and Yumin were talented, but in my opinion, Seungho is better.”
I enjoyed table tennis, but I was most excited to play in my first World Cup. After Na Sang-ho took over as coach of the former national team of Paulo Bento, he was continuously selected and heard the word ‘Prince of Bentoho’. It was a nuance of criticism rather than praise. Na Sang-ho said, “It was a resolution that said, ‘It’s time to show everything’ and ‘Let’s run without regret’. He must have faced an irreversible situation. As much as he prepared well, he played happily.”
Seoul departs for Hua Hin, Thailand, a battery training center on the 8th. ‘Seoul captain’ Na Sang-ho, who started training for his first team on the 3rd, is determined to repay with good grades in the 2023 season. Seoul has only been in the bottom split (6th to 12th) in the last 3 seasons. Na Sang-ho said, “Many Seoul fans came all the way to Qatar to support us. As much as that, Seoul fans are serious about soccer. I will try my best to only play ‘happy football’ at the Sangam World Cup Stadium.”