JEONJU -- FC Barcelona prospect Paik Seung-ho said Thursday he hopes to score South Korea's opening goal at the FIFA U-20 World Cup on home soil.
Host South Korea will face Guinea to start their Group A action at 8 p.m. Saturday at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province. And the 20-year-old midfielder said he'd like to put his name on the score sheet before anyone else.
South Korean midfielder Paik Seung-ho poses for photos during the men's under-20 national football team media day prior to the FIFA U-20 World Cup at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on May 15, 2017. (Yonhap)
"We've spent a lot of time working on our set pieces," he told reporters after a practice session in Jeonju, some 240 kilometers south of Seoul. "I'd like to score a team goal."
Paik said his confidence stems from his improved fitness.
"On the national team, my responsibilities are to make passes and put shots on the opposing net," he said. "I am in great form and I expect myself to score against Guinea."
Paik's conditioning had been a source of concern, since he hadn't been playing much with FC Barcelona B club before joining the national team. After putting in work with the team's trainer, Luis Flavio, Paik said he feels he can play at a high level for the full 90 minutes.
Paik added he'd like to beat Guinea by as big a margin as possible, knowing the competition won't get any easier for South Korea from there. Also in Group A are six-time champions Argentina and European giants England.
The top two teams from each of the six groups, plus the four best third-place teams, will reach the knockout stage. South Korea's best performance at the tournament was the semifinals appearance in 1983. At their most recent U-20 World Cup appearance in 2013, South Korea went as far as the quarterfinals.
"I know we have to score as much as we can against Guinea," Paik said. "We'll play an aggressive football and try to win 2-0 or 3-0." (Yonhap)