Korean National Team Manager Shin Taeyong has just announced Korea’s 28-Man Provisional World Cup Roster.
The line-up comes with its fair share of surprises. Notably, U-20 wonderkid Lee Seung-woo has very surprisingly made the squad out of seemingly nowhere, while Incheon’s Moon Seon-min is another unexpected young addition. Troyes’ journeyman power forward Suk Hyun-jun has missed out, as has Darmstadt’s Ji Dong-won and former Augsburg centreback Hong Jeong-ho.
Let’s look at some of these themes in depth:
Just F*cking Take Everybody!
Shin Taeyong has just taken everybody in the talent pool in defense, bringing 12 defenders to the 28 man roster, and leaving competition open for cuts. Jang Hyun-soo is the only highly likely starter in Russia; everything else still needs to be discussed. Kim Jin-su’s injury has left Shin “unsure” if he’ll recover in time, but the Jeonbuk fullback who missed out on the 2014 World Cup due to injury is doing light training. If ever he doesn’t, the duty will fall to three other left-backs to battle for the starting and bench spots: Park Joo-ho (Ulsan), Hong Chul (Sangju) and Kim Min-woo (Sangju). At right-back, the absence of a strong Jeonbuk presence in the defense meant that their weakest link, Choi Chul-soon, had no real reason to be called up (his performances haven’t been great). It will be down to Ko Yo-han and Lee Yong to fight for the starting position.
At centre-back, it’s a toss-up for that 2nd spot beside Jang Hyun-soo. Kim Young-gwon seems, on experience, to have the inside lane, but Kwon Kyung-won seems to have impressed in a stingy Tianjin defense in the CSL against some tough individual players. Other alternatives include Jeong Seong-hyeon, Oh Ban-seok and Yoon Young-sun – Shin may be looking who can be most comfortable in a three-back, his other preferred system.
Unfortunately, the injury to Kim Min-jae, the aggressive and youthful Jeonbuk centreback, means he’ll miss out, as will Hong Jeong-ho, the former Augsburg defender and 2014 World Cup starter, who didn’t even make the reserve list! Shin will have to answer for that.
Taking a Gamble
Shin put his reputation on the line with three surprising and eyebrow-raising selections in midfield – Lee Chung-yong, Moon Seon-min and Lee Seung-woo. The Blue Dragon probably made it at the very last minute due to the injury to Yeom Ki-hun, while Lee Seung-woo came out of nowhere, asking for an opportunity to prove himself to Shin Tae-yong after scoring against AC Milan (his first professional senior goal). Both are controversial because you can count on one hand the amount of season starts between them – but both also have some validity. Lee CY brings experience, while Lee SW can be part of a learning experience ahead of his generation’s turn at the big show in 2022.
Moon Seon-min is an unknown quantity for those who don’t regularly watch K League. He’s been a big cog in Incheon’s wheel in terms of directness and creativity, and also has experience in the Swedish league.
Faith in the Wookie
Another notable omission was Suk Hyun-jun of Troyes, who seems to have lost out to Kim Shin-wook. The Wookie has had some good showings in a KNT shirt against Asian opposition, most notably in the East Asian Cup, but has consistently struggled to dominate the air against European teams as he did back in the 2014 World Cup against Belgium. Though some could say that Suk is all of Wookie and more, Shin clearly wanted the known quantity over the sometimes inconsistent Suk. Similarly, Ji Dong-won’s lack of identity failed to compel Shin into making a positive decision on the Darmstadt center forward, leaving Kim Shin-wook as the only natural centre forward in the side.