The World Cup is coming, here you can find out a little bit about the players making the trip to Brazil.
Part 1: Goalkeepers
Part 2: Fullbacks
Part 3: Centerbacks
Part 4: Central Midfielders
Part 5: Attacking Midfielders
Part 6: Strikers
Name: Lee Yong (이용)
Senior Caps: 10
Club: Ulsan Hyundai (Korea)
Position: Right Back
Lee Yong, like many of the fullbacks, is a relatively new addition to the team. Lee made his debut for the senior side just last summer, in the 2013 East Asian Cup against China. Since then, the Ulsan man has been the regular right back for Hong Myeong-Bo. At the club level, Lee Yong signed up with Ulsan Hyundai in 2010, and has played a role with the team every year. It was last season that he really cemented his spot there, starting 37 of Ulsan’s 38 league outings. His consistently solid performances for the eventual K League Classic runner-up earned him a spot in the K League team of the season.
Lee Yong is a more defensive-minded fullback. While he can and will get forward, he certainly does not fit the modern iteration of the position, a player who bombs forward regularly and cuts inside to cross or shoot. Lee generally prefers to stay behind the winger, and only overlaps when the winger move inside in order to keep the team’s width. This trait of Lee’s allows him to mesh well with Lee Chung-Yong, who is more conventional winger prefers to stay wide and cross rather than cut inside and shoot. Defensively, Lee Yong is a competent defender. He isn’t the quickest, but his deeper average position generally covers for that.
Lee Yong will certainly be, barring injury of course, the starting right back at Brazil. Beyond that, Lee will have a chance to remain the starter given the lack of younger options/competition at right back.
Name: Kim Chang-Soo (김창수)
Senior Caps: 8
Club: Kashiwa Reysol (Japan)
Position: Right Back
Probably the most surprising of Hong’s calls, not many tabbed Kim Chang-Soo to make the final 23 list. But he has, and in hindsight the decision isn’t quite as surprising as one may think as Kim is one of Hong’s so-called “London Boys”. Despite making his senior debut way back in 2009 against Syria, Kim Chang-Soo has amassed just eight caps since then. Initially drafted by Ulsan Hyundai in 2004, Kim didn’t see any action for them before signing with Daejeon Citizen where he again struggled for playing time. A move to hometown club Busan IPark did the trick as Kim was a regular there. Eventually Kim’s performances got him noticed and in 2012 he was named to the K League XI for the season and was promptly snapped up by J1 side Kashiwa Reysol. Kim had a good start to his time in Japan, but a foot injury sidelined him for several months, and he has since struggled to break back into the first XI.
A more attack-minded fullback, compared to his colleague Lee Yong, Kim Chang-Soo will regularly attempt to get forward and past the winger. At times Kim Chang-Soo can be a very dangerous full back because his crosses, and willingness to move inside, can cause problems for defenses. However, Kim tends to be a bit on the inconsistent side, and if he’s not on form, his attacking runs leave a bit to be desired. His attacking mentality also can leave spaces for the opposing team to attack when he gets forward, making him an occasional liability on defense.
Kim Chang-Soo will enter the training camp, firmly in the back up spot, but it’s possible that if he shows good form he could get a chance against a smaller, more defensive team like Algeria (although unlikely). Kim’s long-term future with the national team is up in the air as he’s already 28 and moving past his prime years. But, like Lee Yong, a lack of clear replacements gives him a chance to continue on.
Name: Kim Jin-Su (김진수)
Senior Caps: 9
Club: Albirex Niigata (Japan)
Position: Left Back/Left Wingback
*NOTE – Kim Jin-Su has been dropped from the 23 man squad due to injury*
One of the youngest members of the squad (Son Heung-Min beats him to that honor by a month), Kim Jin-Su has been a regular since making his debut last summer in the East Asian Cup against Australia. A good showing against Brazil had some people wondering if Korea had finally found a long-term replacement for Lee Young-Pyo, but fast forward several months and a number of question marks still remain about Kim. Kim has spent his entire professional career, admittedly just three years now, in Japan and with Albirex Niigata. Just 19 when he made the move, Kim settled quickly, and in his second year he had already established himself as the first choice left back. Rumors started surfacing this spring that a good World Cup could earn him a move to Europe (specifically to Hoffenheim).
A very forward-thinking fullback, Kim Jin-Su is almost always the furthest forward of the backline. Quick and with a decent left foot, Kim is a very good attacking option, and given Son Heung-Min’s penchant to cut inside and shoot, having an attacking fullback behind him in Kim works well. The biggest question marks about Kim is his ability is can he balance his natural attacking disposition with the defensive responsibilities the position requires. Against Brazil he did well against the duo of Hulk and Dani Alves, but his attacking contribution was limited. Conversely, when he’s gotten forward he’s left the defense exposed, the game against Greece most recently.
For the latter stages of 2013 and early 2014, Kim Jin-Su was nailed on to be the starting left back, but the good form of Park Joo-Ho and a shaky display against Greece had opinions changing on him. As things turned out, Park suffered an injury that wouldn’t go away, and Kim is still likely to be the starter when the team takes the pitch against Russia. Yoon Suk-Young (see below) will have a chance to snatch it away from Kim, but for now, it’s still his to lose.
Name: Yoon Suk-Young (윤석영)
Senior Caps: 2
Club: QPR (England)
Position: Left Back
Another of Hong’s “London Boys”, Yoon Suk-Young actually made his senior bow under the troubled regime of Choi Kang-Hee in the qualifier against Iran in Tehran. But, it was his time at the Olympics (with Hong) that Yoon really grabbed the world’s attention. Probably the best overall full back in the squad, Yoon Suk-Young combines size, athleticism, and talent. Capable of helping out in attack and defense, it was this combination of things that had Yoon linked with some of the world’s giants, such as AC Milan, Manchester City, and others. In the end, Yoon ended up at QPR (likely due to the presence of one Park Ji-Sung). A (possibly) ill-fated move that has set him back a bit, as Harry Redknapp only seems to play him when he has to. A brief loan move to Doncaster Rovers seemed to revitalize him, only for injury to end that spell. He has since returned to QPR, and has been a bright spot in their quest to achieve promotion as he’s put in a few good shifts for the side. Prior to his move to QPR, Yoon spent a few years in the K League with Jeonnam Dragons.
Again, on paper, Yoon is the best overall fullback in the squad. He has a good left foot and is technically solid, making him a good attacking option going forward. Defensively he’s strong, a decent tackler, and a hard worker. The hitch is his form given his sporadic playing time at the club level. Recent performances for QPR suggest Yoon has plenty to offer, although his last national team outing (against an understrength Croatian side) was a bit lacking in quality.
Yoon Suk-Young is clearly a player that Hong rates highly, and I while the left back spot is still Kim Jin-Su’s, I would certainly expect Yoon to get a chance to impress against either Tunisia or Ghana. A good showing (plus an average/poor showing from Kim Jin-Su) and Yoon could start come Brazil. Assuming he can get his club situation sorted out (more regular minutes), Yoon would likely resume the starting left back spot post-World Cup given his greater experience and better all-round game.
Controversially left off the initial 23 man roster, Park Joo-Ho has been called up due to the fact that Kim Jin-Su apparently would not recover in time for the World Cup. Although there are those who suspect that Park has been called up after Hong Myeong-Bo saw a rather insipid offensive performance from the side against Tunisia. There are also rumors/thoughts that Park Joo-Ho wasn’t actually injured severely enough to miss out on the World Cup in the first place, and that Hong simply used it as an excuse note to call him. In some ways, the situation this summer is representative of Park’s relationship with the national team. Always there, but on the fringes, never really the first choice. Park’s club career started off in Japan’s J2 League with Mito HollyHock. Park stayed in Japan for a few years, transferring to Kashima Antlers and then Jubilo Iwata. After that, it was off to Europe and FC Basel in Switzerland. Park stayed there for two seasons and managed to pick up some silverware as Basel won the league title (he also won stuff in Japan). Despite success in Switzerland, Park wasn’t first choice and he decided to move on, joining Mainz in the Bundesliga. Park’s first season in Germany was a successful one, Mainz finished 7th, high enough for the team to qualify for the Europa League qualification stage.
A quick and skillful player, Park Joo-Ho is capable of playing as an orthodox left back or as a wing back. Park has good technique and vision which makes him a valuable attacking option. There have long been questions about his defensive abilities, but over the past seasons Park has shown improvement in that area.
Despite being the only left back in their so-called “prime years”, it seems unlikely that Park Joo-Ho has much of a future with the senior national team. The two younger players, Yoon Suk-Young and Kim Jin-Su, have stronger defensive abilities and a higher ceiling. Plus there’s the small issue of Hong seemingly preferring those two over Park. Like most of the players, Park also has the small issue of military service to deal with. He has said he’ll return to Korea to fulfill his obligation after his contract with Mainz ends, and while serving with the army team doesn’t necessarily mean no national team (see Lee Keun-Ho), it certainly won’t help.