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Despite packed sked, midfielder 'thankful' to be playing

All Headlines 18:14 August 30, 2016

PAJU, South Korea, Aug. 30 (Yonhap) -- With one match after another, there's been no rest for the emerging midfielder Kwon Chang-hoon.

Ask the 22-year-old if he's exhausted from having played international football virtually non-stop since January, and he'll tell you fatigue is the last thing on his mind.

"I am just thankful I can play football constantly," Kwon told reporters Tuesday at the National Football Center (NFC) in Paju, Gyeonggi Province. South Korea have set up camp here for Thursday's World Cup qualifier against China.

The Suwon Samsung Bluewings midfielder has been one of the country's brightest young stars, not to mention among its busiest. In January, he helped South Korea qualify for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics by finishing second at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship. He has also appeared in World Cup qualifying matches for the senior team. Then it was back to the U-23 squad at the Rio Games earlier this month.

"To be a great player, I have to be learning all the time," Kwon said. "My job is to make the most of my opportunities and show what I am capable of."

South Korea will host China at Seoul World Cup Stadium at 8 p.m. Thursday. It will be the first match in the final Asian qualification round for the 2018 FIFA World Cup for both sides. Though South Korea are ranked 30 spots above China at No. 48 and have only lost once in 30 previous meetings, the players here are bracing for a physical contest.

"I've read a lot of articles saying how China will be going 'all-in' trying to beat us," Kwon said. "We all understand the importance of this match, too."

A hard-nosed attacker who isn't afraid to take shots, Kwon said he always feels "a sense of responsibility" when donning the national team jersey.

"There's some pressure in competing in a series of crucial matches, but I've been getting a lot of help from my teammates and coaches," he added. "I want to play with confidence."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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