Jeonnam’s MF Ace: Han Chan Hee

First off I apologize for the hold up at the Tavern – Tim and I decided to analyze a Sunday game for Match of the Day and some ridiculous technical difficulties prevented me from uploading the video until late last night (14 hours later the 4 GB video is still uploading to YT). This caused a weekly roundup and my youth series, supposed to have come out Saturday, to get backed up. But here’s a piece on a very interesting player while we wait for the Germany / Schalke friendlies.

I had actually intended to do this piece on Han Chan Hee a little later but his birthday was just two days ago (well, 5 days ago now), so I felt like doing a little piece on Jeonnam’s newest 신인 ahead of schedule.

Han Chan Hee

Han Chan Hee joins a long list of very talented players all coming straight out of high school: Pohang’s Kim Roman and Woo Chanyang, Seoul’s Kim Jung Hwan and Lim Min Hyeok, Ulsan’s Kim Gun Woong, etc. (all of them will be featured in this youth series). All of these players, except Kim Roman, are key players for the current U19 team that will feature in next year’s FIFA U20 World Cup, which Korea is hosting. Han Chan Hee has quite some expectations: before him came Yoon Suk Young, Ji Dong Won, Lee Jong Ho, and Kim Young Uk, all of whom came through the Jeonnam youth ranks and ended up on the U23 team / the national team.

Gwangyang Jecheol High School, like its rival school Pohang Jecheol, is one of the more successful youth teams. They won the K League Junior Championship after beating Ulsan Hyundai in the finals 2-1 (a team featuring the U17 stars like captain Lee Sang Min, Brazil-killer Jang Jae Won and Ghana-killer Oh Se Hun, and U18 stars Oh In Pyo and Kim Gun Woong).

A month earlier, they had lost 4-3 to Ulsan Hyundai. Han Chan Hee scored a brace while Oh Se Hun scored a hattrick.

Every media outlet who reports on Han Chan Hee’s upcoming season refer to him as the second Ki Sung Yong. I really don’t like comparing youth players to old players, but Han Chan Hee, admittedly, does play a lot like the old Ki Sung Yong. He’s good at long passes (quite a few of those 1v1’s Lee Seung Woo had all came from Han Chan Hee, as was that one two LSW had running into the Belgium defense), goes up and down the pitch as a box to box midfielder, and occasionally scores long range goals. From the snippets I’ve seen over the past two years, he seems like a #8 type: when the team’s in attack Han Chan Hee is often in the penalty area or just outside of it; in defense he goes all the way back.

Now, I said that Han Chan Hee shares the same birthday and position as Baek Seung Ho. They almost certainly won’t start together and at first glance they’re very similar players. Yet there are important differences. To me, Baek Seung Ho has more energy and seems to be doing more with his feet, in that he’s always showing very good footwork and dribbling skills. Han Chan Hee doesn’t take on opponents like Baek Seung Ho does, and Baek seems to edge him in ball control and first touch – of course, given their different environments you’d expect the Barca product to excel here. Yet where Han excels is in shooting and long passes. Baek seems to have lost his shooting boots sometime during the transfer ban as he has missed many shot opportunities since January. He has, though, scored some really good goals, notably that one where he scored the equalizing 1-1 from the right flank. Yet Han seems to have more power and accuracy in his shot – though this could be, of course, due to lax Korean defending. And when it comes to long balls I guess Baek simply prefers short passes to long passes as he doesn’t attempt them as frequently. He had a very nice long pass assist just this past weekend but it’s more often with Han that I see a perfectly placed Xabi Alonso / early-KSY esque pass..

I would make a Han Chan Hee highlight reel, but after hours of video editing last night I’m quite tired of it (and my computer is being slow as is uploading the MotD) so… here’s the match footage for anyone interested in Han Chan Hee and the rest of the U19 team (Han is #16. Also pay attention to #17, #11, and #8 – some real special players in the making here)

An interesting development happened recently with HCH: apparently, Ahn Ik Soo likes to rotate his captains. In the past we’ve seen Kim Suk Jin and Lee Dong Jun. But apparently, when he asked in Germany “who wants to be captain,” only Han Chan Hee raised his hand. As such, Han will be the captain of the U19 team as we face off against Germany U19 twice and against Schalke U19. Now,

Will he get any playing time as an 18 year old? It is incredibly rare for K League classic teams to play players under 20. The only exceptions last season were Lee Gwang Hyeok, Seo Myung Won, and Hwang In Beom. For Han Chan Hee, though I’m a little more optimistic than with others because Jeonnam’s creativity has literally been 0 these past two games, and none of the midfielders in 4-2-3-1 have impressed very much. If Jeonnam continues to have midfield problems perhaps we will see him make sub appearances later this season. But starter minutes will be incredibly rare (unless No Sang Rae REALLY rates this guy, as highly as I do).