The mandatory Canadian apology for being AWOL of late – just wanted to hit the ground running for senior year academically. Things are getting into a pleasantly smooth groove now so hopefully I can make time for at least the news posts, and hopefully more opinion stuff.
Uli Stielike will announce his 20-something man roster for the October World Cup Qualifying matches against Qatar and Iran tomorrow. These are not two easy opponents by any stretch of the imagination, and the importance of these games is accentuated by Korea dropping points to Syria earlier this month. It would be foolish to say that these games could be Stielike’s last stand – his sacking at the end of this month would be so Middle Eastern in nature – but the court is definitely in session.
There was a bit of controversy over Stielike’s last team selection, particularly how he questioned the quality of the K-League while opting to call up only 20 out of a possible 23 players. Therefore, the Tavern Writers got together (well actually, only Jinseok and I) and now we present to you – the Tavern View on who we believe should be called up tomorrow.
GK, Kim Seunggyu
GK, Kim Jinhyeon
GK, Kwoun Suntae
LB, Hong Chul
LB/RB, Oh Jaesuk
RB, Lee Yong
LB/RB/CB/DM, Jang Hyunsoo
CB, Kim Kihee
CB, Hong Jeongho
CB, Kwak Taehwi
CB, Kim Minhyeok
DM, Ki Sungyueng
DM, Han Kookyoung
CM, Joo Sejong
CAM, Koo Jacheol
AM, Kim Bokyung
AM, Lee Chungyong
AM, Lee Jaesung
AM/FW, Ji Dongwon
AM, Son Heungmin
FW, Hwang Heechan
FW, Suk Hyunjun
FW, Park Chuyoung
Jung Sungryong’s knee injury in his most recent league fixture puts the veteran custodian out of contention. Many of his haters will call it a blessing in disguise, but there’s no questioning the fact that Jung has nonetheless had possibly his best league season yet, earning plaudits across the J.League for his form.
His omission solidifies the obvious inclusions of his fellow Japan-based netminders – Kim Seunggyu and Kim Jinhyeon will most certainly be back in training camp for international duty. As for the third keeper, K League supporters will be thrilled to see one of their own on the call-up list (provided Stielike goes with 3 keepers). The Tavern View is that Kwoun Suntae should get the nod.
Although his height isn’t perfect and his goalkeeper style, somewhat panicky, Kwoun is the best goalkeeper in the K League. He’s the most consistent, least error-prone and more often involved in high-pressure situations. Alternatively, if Stielike is thinking of a long-term option, Kim Dongjun had a stellar game against Jeonbuk yesterday…
In the full-back positions, the options are quite limited – Jang Hyunsoo, for all his flaws, remains a staple in Stielike’s sides, so much so that it’s just impossible to not include a KNT team without him in the mix. He’s far from perfect in any one position, but his versatility is a valuable virtue among a defensive core which otherwise doesn’t really have any.
Leftback Hong Chul of Suwon should make a return to the side. He’s got several KNT games under his belt, and despite the Bluewings’ woeful season, Hong remains a bright spot, notably for his pace and audacious overlaps. On the right side, Lee Yong is included for lack of a better option – the recently discharged Sangju soldier is back at Ulsan Hyundai. He whips in crosses better than – in my opinion – any other fullback among this selection. Oh Jaesuk’s stock value went up after an impressive, hard-working performance against China – he seized his first opportunity and should definitely now be getting others, potentially as a regular starter.
Yun Sukyoung is left off the side despite just recently making his debut at Brondby – he should be given adequate time to adjust. Meanwhile, Kim Jinsu and Park Jooho remain in our thoughts at they collect rust in Germany.
At centreback, Kim Younggwon’s recent injury for Guangzhou means he will be unavailable for national duty until next year. Stalwart Kwak Taehwi should come in and take his place. He’s done himself no disservice in his recent national team performances, successful in the K League and against Graziano Pelle in the ACL. His age is a concern, but when you are so hard-pressed for options, it can’t possibly be that much of a deterrent given the lack of alternatives. Hong Jeongho and Kim Kihee will likely be called up again, while Kim Minhyeok probably deserves the final CB spot more than any K League centreback at the moment, as no one of interest (save Kwak) is particularly impressing.
Captain Ki Sungyueng is a lock despite his fairly underwhelming season start & managerial spat at Swansea. Han Kookyoung is a wise pick as a more defensive player – he did his job against China and performed to the best of his skill-set. He could be useful at cutting out Iranian counters. Joo Sejong makes a return to the national team – a pair of decent showings for FC Seoul are enough for us – the KNT is crying out loud for a box-to-box type, or even a player with an eye for a solid, central midfield vertical pass. Joo has that. Plus, we’re probably ideologically against the idea of another CSL player (cough Jung Wooyoung cough) coming in, especially when what they offer is nothing but a holding midfielder playing scrub minutes.
We’ve opted to drop Kwon Changhoon – he’s not in form and the energetic, super sub player role is better filled by Hwang Heechan anyway. There’s a KNT future for Kwon, but space needs to be made for this month at least for other attacking options.
Son Heungmin is god and that’s all we really need to say about him. Lee Chungyong hasn’t been putting in a god-like quality of performance for Palace, but he’s made the most of the opportunities he’s had, including a strong game midweek in the EFL Cup & an assist on Benteke’s winner today. Koo Jacheol and Ji Dongwon have been starting for Augsburg of late, so excluding them would be equally foolish – though I think both players, especially Ji, need guidance on their role in the team instead of being given flexibility. Ji works hard and is decent in the air, but his movement leaves so much to be desired and he’s hardly ever on the same wavelength as Son when the Spurs man turns up the pace. Nonetheless, playing time in Europe = inclusion.
Lee Jaesung and Kim Bokyung are sensational players. Lee’s audacious dribbling & killer passing & good work tracking back & stamina makes him an unscratchable player. But Kim Bokyung, his fellow Jeonbuk teammate, has been excluded time and time again by Stielike despite showing glimpses – or actually, not just glimpses, but extended periods – of his old Cardiff self. Some may wonder “where does he fit in in the starting XI?” and that’s a valid question. Can he really knock off Koo Jacheol? But there’s no denying that his constant creative, all-rounded play this season is a compelling reason for Stielike to shed his stubborn streak, call up a proper 23-man roster and give Kimbo some minutes.
I honestly do not know how Suk Hyunjun is doing at Trabzonspor – I think he scored a goal recently. Nonetheless, we know what he is capable of and there were moments in the last two matches where the game was just crying out loud for a strong, no-nonsense center forward who wasn’t going to take any shit or allow himself to get lost in the match.
Hwang Heechan is a reluctant call-up, simply because we wouldn’t want to destroy any prospects of valuable starting minutes at his club. However, we don’t feel like he got a proper hearing in his last call-up, and yet he still showed off his skill set – ball control, boundless energy and pace. I want to see Hwang play with Son again – their dynamic at the Olympics was good, and there is potential for a dynamic duo here to grow.
Park Chuyoung is the controversial figure. Korean media seem to want Lee Jeonghyeop and Kim Shinwook (why and why? I thought we already had the Wookie talk, Korea. Don’t bring this up again.) But much like Kim Bokyung, in the K League scheme of things, with all things considered, he is the best-performing forward that is in that “call-up feasibility zone”. Off-the-ball positioning is a difficult ability to even properly describe, but some players just have a knack of being in the right position at the right time, and more importantly, doing the right things to get into those positions. Park Chuyoung does that.
He’s got experience, he’s got an eye for goal (though he has missed a couple of sitters lately, we’re keen on overlooking that) and if under Hong Myungbo, he was given instruction to remain pinned to the opposition defensive line, under Stielike, Park could be given an amount of creative freedom which might even allow him to come deeper and dictate, as he seeks to often do for Seoul with passes for Dejan from those positions.
Park Chuyoung is an on-and-off player. And I haven’t hit the panic button just yet on the KNT, not by any means. But without better options, this is would be a bold, but very worthy roll of the dice for a manager whose team reflects his image – hard-working, but quiet, calm, and content with being simple and maybe even uninventive.
Stielike has got to make a leap of faith at some point, and Park Chuyoung right now isn’t even much of a leap. Maybe just a hop. In any case, these next two fixtures can either quell fears or ignite horror. The same old was unsatisfactory against China and Syria. The dilemma for Uli is to stick with “his way” and call players like Jung Wooyoung, Lee Junghyup, or even Nam Taehee and Kim Shinwook. Or he can choose to be audacious and give K Leaguers who deserve inclusion a fair shot against the toughest of group opponents.
I choose audacity. Uli should, too.