After the 2011 Asian Cup in Qatar, Park Ji-sung and Lee Young-pyo, two legends and pillars of the South Korean national soccer team, announced their retirement at the same time.
South Korean soccer was left with the task of filling the gaps left by these two legends, who were longtime mainstays of the national team. For starters, Park Ji-Sung’s position as a flanker and attacking midfielder was filled by the so-called London Generation, including Koo Ja-Cheol (Jeju United) and Kim Bo-Kyung (Suwon Samsung).
While not as influential as Park, the late 1980s-born players who won a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics led the South Korean soccer attack for a time until the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
After that, Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur)’s prime began in earnest. Lee Jae-sung (Mainz) and Kwon Chang-hoon (Suwon Samsung) also made their mark in the position. From the London generation, the lineage of national team attacking midfielders naturally continued with players born in the early to mid-1990s.
Lee Kang-in (Paris Saint-Germain) and Hong Hyun-seok (KKA Gent), who were born in the late 1990s and early 2000s, are also considered to be strong candidates to succeed their seniors in the position.
Finding a successor to Lee Young-pyo, who saw time at left fullback, was not difficult by today’s standards. There was a large pool of left-back players from the late 1980s and early 1990s, including Yoon Seok-young (Gangwon FC), who starred at the London Olympics, Park Joo-ho, Hong Chul (Daegu FC), Kim Jin-soo (Jeonbuk Hyundai), and Kim Min-woo (Chengdu Rongcheong).
Since the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, players from this generation have played the left-back position on an almost rotational basis in the squads of Cho Kwang-rae, Choi Kang-hee, Hong Myung-bo, Uli Stielike, Shin Tae-yong, and Paulo Bento. The left fullback spot was also occupied at the three World Cups during this period.
What is worrying is that this generation of players, who reached their prime as soccer players during Bento’s tenure, are occupying both the starting and reserve spots in the current national team under the new coach. They are more than a decade behind other positions where players born in the 2000s are knocking on the national team’s door.
“The national team is in the midst of a generational change,” Klinsmann said after the September A-match against England. But this position was not included. This time around, Klinsmann’s call-ups are once again for 1991-born Lee Ki-je (Suwon Samsung) and 1992-born Kim Jin-soo.
Klinsmann has called the national team four times since his appointment in March. Lee has been named to every roster under Klinsmann. Kim Jin-soo has also been selected except for September, when he was sidelined due to injury.
Park Kyu-hyun of South Korea competes for the ball with a Japanese player during the men’s football final match between South Korea and Japan at the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games at Huanglong Sports Center Stadium in Hangzhou, China, on July 7.
Aside from these two, there is not a single professional left fullback who has gotten a taste of the national team under Klinsmann. The only other left-backs selected were “possible” Kang Sang-woo (Beijing Guoan), Park Kyu-hyun (Dynamo Dresden) and Seol Young-woo (Ulsan Hyundai).
Luckily, 2001-born Park made his international debut in this position last June. He went on to play the position at the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games, which was enough to establish him as a fresh left fullback.
For some reason, however, Park didn’t make it to the national team’s September call-up.
It’s not always a case of picking a new face to prepare for a big tournament. Compared to the existing players, there may not be many players who are up to the task. However, even if there is one spot available, you can pick a player who is in good form and experiment with them through trials.
The October A matches are against Tunisia and Vietnam, both of whom are objective underdogs. It’s a great opportunity to evaluate players for the long term future in a position where generational change is noticeably slowing down.
When Bento called up his squad to face the Olympic team in October 2020, he included two left fullbacks from the K League at the time, Lee Ju-Yong (Jeju United)온라인카지노 and Shim Sang-Min (Pohang Steelers). While these players didn’t end up sticking around for the World Cup, it was the perfect opportunity to try out new players.
It’s true that the immediate goal is to win the trophy at the 2023 Asian Cup in Qatar. However, Klinsmann’s contract runs until the 2026 World Cup in North and Central America, and the team must be prepared for that eventuality. In three years, Lee Ki-je and Kim Jin-soo will be 35 and 34 years old, respectively.
“Of course, I think so,” Kim Jin-soo said when asked at the Paju NFC on Nov. 11 if he thinks a new face can make it to the Asian Cup. “The coach told me that the door to the national team is always open. I think it’s important for both K League players and players in foreign countries to play the kind of soccer the coach wants.”