Jürgen Klinsmann’s choice was one of change.
The Korea Football Association on Monday (Sept. 28) announced the 25-man roster for the South Korean men’s national team’s September friendly tours of Europe. Klinsmann’s squad will face Wales on Sept. 8 and Saudi Arabia on Sept. 13 for the first two friendlies.
The changes from June were expected. First, Kim Min-jae and Kim Young-kwon are back after missing the June A match due to basic military training and injury, respectively. The two players, who have been an inseparable center-back duo since the days of Paulo Bento, are expected to return side by side in September.
While the news of Kim Young-kwon’s return from injury was positive, Lee Kang-in, who has established himself as an integral part of the future of Korean soccer, was not called up. Lee’s club, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), announced on their website on the 22nd, “Lee Kang-in sustained an injury to his left quadriceps. He will receive treatment until the end of the A-match period,” the club announced on its website. According to French media, Lee suffered the injury during the second-round match of the 2023-24 French Ligue 1 against Toulouse on Nov. 20.
Initially, public opinion was not in Klinsmann’s favor when it came to Lee’s call-up to the national team. In mid-August, Klinsmann made it clear in a video interview with Korean reporters that he would call up Lee to the national team.
At the time, Klinsmann said, “I want Lee Kang-in to come to the national team, play his best game and improve his performance so that he can join the Asian Games team. I hope he can get good energy from the national team and pass it on to the Asian Games team. Lee Kang-in has the ability, so if he joins the Asian Games team after playing A matches, he will adapt quickly.”
While Klinsmann’s need for a first win is understandable, Lee is currently on the roster of Hwang Sun-hong’s Hangzhou Asian Games squad. Ahead of the Asian Games, where Lee will be exempted from military service if he wins a gold medal, there was a lot of criticism of Klinsmann’s decision to bring Lee into the national team.
As it turned out, Lee Kang-in was injured and was unable to join the national team. In response, Klinsmann said, “Lee Kang-in’s injury will disrupt our game operations and cause us some difficulties. However, we will accept the reality and use it as an opportunity to prepare another plan. I hope that Lee Kang-in can recover quickly and adapt to the team and participate in the Asian Games in good shape.” He told Lee to focus on the Asian Games.
With the Asian Games just around the corner, additional changes were inevitable. It was inevitable that there would be some overlap in the players that Klinsmann and Hwang wanted. It was impossible to come up with a solution that would satisfy everyone, so they decided to make half concessions.
First, Baek Seung-ho, Song Min-kyu (Jeonbuk Hyundai), Jung Woo-young (Stuttgart), and Park Kyu-hyun (Dresden) were excluded from the European trip so that they could participate in the Asian Games team’s training in Changwon from the beginning. Instead, Asian Games members Seol Young-woo (Ulsan Hyundai) and Hong Hyun-seok (KAA Gent) were called up to the national team at Klinsmann’s request.
With Kim Jin-soo (Jeonbuk Hyundai) out with an injury, the national team is currently short on fullback options. Klinsmann wanted to keep an eye on the potential of Seol Young-woo, who performed well in a trial in June. The same can be said for Hong Hyun-seok, who Klinsmann handpicked for the national team.
However, Klinsmann added an additional condition. “After the Wales game, if there are no special circumstances such as injuries, conditions, or performances of other players, we will cooperate with Hong Hyun-seok and Seol Young-woo to join the Asian Games team as much as possible. I hope that the Asian Games team led by coach Hwang Sun-hong will prepare well and achieve their goals in the tournament,” he said, showing his willingness to help the Asian Games team.
“I am also learning about the importance of the Asian Games. Many people keep explaining to me that it’s more important than I thought because of the military issues at stake. When players like Lee Kang-in receive military benefits, it helps not only the individual but also Korean soccer. Now I understand to a certain extent, and I try to understand more, so I will try to help. In explaining this to European clubs, Hwang appears to have chosen to stand by his statement that he is working behind the scenes to help Hwang and the Asian Games squad.
The most notable changes to the roster are at goalkeeper, center back, and central midfield. The goalkeeper position was originally expected to go to Song Bum-geun (Shonan Belmare), but he was unavailable due to injury. Surprisingly, it was Kim Jun-hong (Gimcheon Commerce), born in 2003, who was called up to fill Song’s vacant spot.
Kim was born in 2003 and played for Jeonbuk Hyundai’s B team before joining Gimcheon for military service ahead of the 2023 season. He didn’t get much of a chance in the early part of the season, but as of late, he’s been starting more games. With Song Bum-geun out with an injury, the goalkeeping spot has been filled with new blood. Kim Jun-hong was also a key part of Korea’s run to the quarterfinals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in June.
Joining Kim in the squad is Kim Ji-soo (Brentford), who also played a key role in the U-20 World Cup quarterfinals. Kim joined Brentford in the English Premier League (EPL) this season after showing promise at Seongnam FC and the U-20 World Cup. He becomes the 17th Korean to play in the Premier League. Born in 2004, Kim was labeled as a Brentford B team member, but he proved to be a valuable resource for the club as he accompanied the first team in pre-season.
He made an uneventful debut as a substitute in two pre-season games. Brentford have also included Kim in their first team roster this season. Recently, Klinsmann had a meeting with Kim during his visit to England. Klinsmann believes that Kim has good potential. He is unlikely to be a starter right away, but he will be competing with Kim Joo-sung and Jung Seung-hyun for a spot in the national team.
Speaking about the two prospects, he said, “Kim Jun-hong was selected by goalkeeping coach Andreas Köpke during the Asian Games squad’s training camp at Paju NFC in early August. Kim Ji-soo was checked by me in person. The two players were not selected for their immediate effectiveness, but rather for their potential to grow into the future of the national team.”
Lee Soon-min is a key midfielder for Gwangju FC, who have been making waves in the K League 1 this year. He is 29 years old and wears the Korean flag for the first time. Lee is a versatile midfielder who can play as a central midfielder, defensive midfielder, and fullback.
He was a key part of Gwangju’s promotion to the K League 1 in the 2022 season, earning a spot in the K League 2 Best Eleven. This season, he continues to play an important role in Lee Jung-hyo’s soccer team. He made headlines in July when he scored a spectacular theater goal in a match between Team K League and Atletico Madrid.
The question is whether Klinsmann knows how to utilize him. In June, Klinsmann called Ahn into the national team for the first time ahead of a trial. At the time, he said, “I’ve been monitoring him, but I haven’t seen him play, but I’ll see him soon. He’s a good flanker, he’s dynamic, he’s aggressive,” he said, admitting that he selected him without getting to know the player.
Ahn made his national team debut shortly thereafter, but Klinsmann gave him tactical instructions as if he didn’t really know how to use him. He described him as a flanker with more offensive tendencies than defensive ones, but in reality, he asked him to focus only on his defensive role on the field. In the short time he played, he was unable to show his strengths.
This is an example of the criticism that the K League is not doing a good job of checking players. If Lee Soon-min, like Ahn Hyun-beom, is dressed in clothes that don’t fit the player, the controversy against Klinsmann is likely to grow. Klinsmann only left a short comment saying, “Lee Soon-min is a player who has been performing steadily in the K League.”
The return of Kang Sang-woo and Lee Dong-kyung is also notable. It’s been a year and eight months since they were called up to the national team. Kang returned to the national team for the first time since last January’s World Cup Asia final qualifier against the Middle East in Qatar. Kang Sang-woo has been in great form for Beijing Guoan this season. While he plays an attacking role for Beijing Guoan, he is likely to be used as a flanker for the national team. 바카라사이트
Lee Dong-kyung returned to Ulsan after an unsuccessful stint in Germany. He’s slowly regaining his form and looking like one of the best attacking midfielders in the K League. He will likely play where Lee Kang-in was unable to make the team.
Yang Hyun-joon (Celtic) has also been recalled and has a chance to make his A-match debut. His form has been improving since his move to Celtic, so the competition for the second spot will be fierce.