I bet most of you have seen videos floating around of Lee Kangin’s goal vs. Togo in the 4th minute – both Korean and Valencian networks are still talking about it. Amazing first touch, amazing turn, amazing curl
It’s amazing how LKI has stolen the spotlight so quickly on what’s essentially his Korean youth national team debut (we’re not going to count the AFC U19 qualifiers since there was little coverage, LKI didn’t start all of those, and Korea won with near-double-digit scorelines). Kim Hakbum, the U23 manager, is even considering calling up LKI for the Asian Games later this year (he’s already decided on Son as a wildcard, Hwang HC is under U23, and says he’ll call up anyone who can give Korea the highest chance of winning).
LKI’s introduction to the KNT and impact is very reminiscent of Lee Seungwoo’s introduction to the youth system at the U16 level. LKI is clearly not as flashy as LSW was, but there’s a good chance his career will kickstart a little earlier than LSW’s as he was fortunate to evade FIFA’s ban and has been regularly playing for Valencia B as of late. And we know how sorely Korea lacks a #10. Have we ever really had a true #10? Ever? We had high hopes for Kim Bokyung but a lot of things just didn’t go his way during his last years in England…
After this tournament, LKI’s next appearance in Korean colors is likely to either be the U23 or the U20 World Cup. I can’t imagine Valencia would let him go for an AFC U19 championship, and it’s probably better for LKI anyway to more quickly integrate into Valencia B.
Here’s a general HL reel:
We lined up this time with LKI as #10, a slightly modified defense, and Ko Jaehyun instead of Jung Hojin, both of whom were rotated in the JS Cup. This time Jeon Sejin was placed, on paper, a little deeper in midfield, likely to accommodate LKI’s more advanced position. He’s played CM/AM for the KNT setups for as long as I can remember, yet for Suwon he’s started a couple times as one of the strikers in a 4-4-2. We will have to observe his club progress to see whether he becomes more of an AM/SS, a plain FW, or more CM.
Again, due to work and time zone constraints I did not have the chance to watch the match, but the HLs, news articles, online comments tell us a lot. A big shoutout to Tavern writer Michael Welch, who was able to watch and take notes to help me write this.
Um Wonsang never puts in a foot wrong for this team. The recognized “ace” before Lee Kangin arrived, he should be playing in the K League alongside teammates Jeon Sejin and Cho Youngwook, not for a university side. If anyone from this team is going to get scouted by the French scouts it’s Um Wonsang.
Lee Kangin, of course, is catching all the attention, not just for the goal but for his immense skill level compared to his teammates. However, Michael Welch noted that after half time LKI was assigned a deeper role, and that this tactical switch did not work very well.
To the surprise of no one, the two K League regulars (using regulars loosely here of course but they do start games) have done their fair share. Like Lee Kangin Cho Youngwook was a U19 KNT side starter as a 17 year old (remember all those friendlies we played before the 2017 U20 World Cup in Korea? CYW was on fire during those games). This time he played wide-right and along with UWS, starred up front. Jeon Sejin was also reportedly a standout in this game as well a little deeper in midfield than he has played in the past.
Inability to finish:
Despite the wingers doing almost everything right, the attack apparently fell flat at Oh Sehun. Besides that clutch finish vs. Ghana two years ago Oh Sehun has never really impressed. He’s very tall but his finishing left much to be desired this time around, missing a sitter and having his shots aimed straight at the keeper. Many articles are saying he will get dropped in favor of Kim Chan of Pohang next game.
In my opinion we should be playing Cho Youngwook center forward. He may be playing wide for FC Seoul, but the fact is there’s no good CF in this U19 team and CYW is miles above Oh Sehun or even Kim Chan’s level. Remember how we were praising CYW’s linebreaking back in the day? He was really good at latching onto throughballs and getting behind the defense, which makes me think CYW would link up really well with Lee Kangin. STY played CYW centrally before and during the 2017 U20 World Cup in Korea (and we beat Argentina 2-1 and Guinea 3-0 in the group stage) and it was effective. That is, until he started messing with the lineup and formation every single game and we got knocked out in the RO16 (sound familiar?)
We still suck at defending:
Despite scoring in the 4th minute, Korea once again was on the back foot for most of the game and could not finish. There is nothing new to be said here. This team seems to have the exact same problem as the senior KNT – misplaced back passes and awful defending. Michael Welch noted that we were far too compact and narrow with our defending, giving Togo’s wingers way too much space out wide. He also noticed that though Min Sungjun got his gloves on both goals, he wasn’t strong enough to keep them out. If you look at the highlights, Michael’s on point with these observations.
Also, if you look at Togo’s first goal… that’s just not an okay goal to concede. Korea’s scored goals like that against Japanese defenders. But come on, our defenders shouldn’t be that complacent! How did the one Togo FW manage to just stand there between 6-8 surrounding defenders and just score? Yeah he’s clearly a strong guy but.. Jesus I can’t believe they just him take that shot.
He also said there were a few of penalty opportunities this game that our players didn’t complain about or chose to fight on instead of diving, which are also in the highlight video as well.
After our next match vs Switzerland we will play placement matches against the other teams that didn’t get out of their group. After this Toulon Cup there’s the AFC U19 Championship in October – a tournament that Korea traditionally wins very often – and after that, the 2019 U20 World Cup in Poland.
But more immediately, Jung Jungyong needs to find a way to get these defenders into shape. He’s done good work with the youth national teams in the past, but the defense has never been dire as this team’s. It’s interesting – Korea generally has decent defending in youth teams, but this generation is sorely lacking a DF leader like 2011 Jang Hyunsoo (lol), 2013 Yeon Jemin (also lol) and 2017 Lee Sangmin and Jung Taewook (I still have high hopes for these guys).