SEOUL, July 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korean national baseball team manager Sun Dong-yol already has enough pressure on his shoulders, as he hopes to guide the country to its third consecutive Asian Games gold medal in Indonesia later this year.
And having watched South Korea go through a roller-coaster ride at the FIFA World Cup in Russia last month, Sun said he saw how tough it is to represent the country in international sporting competitions.
"After watching our football team, I just realized what it means to wear the national flag on our uniforms," Sun said over the phone Tuesday.
At the World Cup, South Korea opened the group stage with losses to Sweden and Mexico, which led to mounting criticism on head coach Shin Tae-yong and a few of his players. The Taeguk Warriors salvaged their lost campaign by upsetting defending champions Germany 2-0, but some of the players still left Russia with emotional scars from angry fans' cyberattacks.
While baseball at the Aug. 18-Sept. 2 Asian Games won't generate the same level of interest as the World Cup, Sun feels the pressure to deliver the goods won't be that much different.
"At the Asian Games, we're expected to win the gold medal," he said. "It'll be a failure if we bring home silver."
Sun announced a team of 24 Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) professionals on June 11. And with the KBO season in full swing, Sun will have to wait until the league enters the Asian Games break on Aug. 18 to bring everyone together.
The baseball competition is scheduled to start Aug. 25, a full week after the opening ceremony in Jakarta.
In the meantime, Sun is trying to break down Japan and Taiwan, the two biggest rivals in South Korea's bid for its third straight title. He'll also travel to Jakarta later this month to check out baseball venues.
Sun admitted to feeling helpless as he watched the recent struggles of a couple of national team pitchers: Doosan Bears right-hander Lee Yong-chan and LG Twins right-hander Im Chan-kyu.
Im in particular was touched for 17 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings across two starts on June 14 and 20, immediately after his national selection. Im pitched out of the bullpen on June 30 and was charged with an earned run in 2/3 of an inning. His ERA soared from 3.70 to 5.47 over those three appearances.
"In a short tournament, we have to rely on pitchers more so than hitters," said Sun, one of the KBO's greatest pitchers in his playing days. "I am a bit worried that national team pitchers have been up and down. For now, I can't do anything but wait for them to turn things around."
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