The summer of 2016 promises to be an extremely eventful time for us. On top of the Olympics where Shin Tae Yong and co. will be gunning for a medal (expect extensive coverage on the Olympics from the Tavern!), we have the Euros, which seems to be more unpredictable than in previous years with France and England coming out stronger than usual.
But for me the most exciting of course is the youth tournaments! Yes, we have quite a few in the month of May alone – three of our NT setups (U16 U18 U19) will be playing against a diverse range of teams from across the world:
The Suwon JS U19 Cup:
Thank goodness for Park Ji Sung. With a coach as iffy as Ahn Ik Soo, the U19 team – the team that will represent Korea when we host the FIFA U20 World Cup next year – needs all the practice it can get. The same core group of players have been playing together for years so by now the chemistry (and the results) should get better. Last year in the U18 JS Cup this same team lost to France 1-0, and this time if Ahn Ik Soo loses again, the discontent of fans will probably get even stronger. And it goes without saying there will be a massive uproar if we fail to win against Japan.
Here is the prelim roster.
GK: 송범근(고려대), 이준(연세대), 문정인(울산현대고)
DF: 이상민(숭실대), 김민호, 신찬우(이상 연세대), 정태욱, 최익진(이상 아주대), 이유현(단국대), 윤종규(신갈고), 우찬양(포항)
MF: 박한빈(대구), 이승모(포항제철고), 이상현(울산현대고), 김건웅(울산), 임민혁(서울), 한찬희(전남)
FW: 김무건(현대미포조선), 김시우(광주), 김진야(인천대건고), 김정환(서울), 이동준(숭실대), 조영욱(언남고), 원두재(한양대), 강지훈(용인대)
The core of the team is more or less the same, with the only new face being Cho Young Wook, one of the three high school players on the team. Kim Suk Jin is out but Kim Min Ho is back, making me think the CB duo will be Lee Sang Min and Kim Min Ho. Ahn Ik Soo is pretty good at rotation, but if it comes to the strongest possible XI, I’m fairly certain Lee Dong Joon, Kang Ji Hoon, Han Chan Hee, and Kim Jung Hwan are guaranteed starters, while Park Han Bin, Lim Min Hyeok, and Kim Gun Woong will get rotated. The stars of the old U17 team (so the current 18 year olds) like Kim Jin Ya, Lee Sang Heon, and Lee Seung Mo will probably be “first off the bench” options.
AFC U19 Championships:
Even though we are hosting the U20 World Cup we are still going to play in the U19 Championship (so if we get top 4, a team from the quarterfinals stage will get it the World Cup ticket). The group draw happened fairly recently. In the month of October we will face Bahrain, Thailand, and Saudi Arabia in the group stages.
The U18 team, coached by Jung Jung-Yong (the coach before Choi Jin Cheol for the 2012 AFC U16 team) will play friendlies later this month against the Netherlands and England. Lee Seung Woo and Jang Gyeol Hee are likely to be called according to Korean sources. There are actually players above in the U19 level that would be eligible for this, but of course the Suwon JS Cup takes priority.
Note: 1) This is the same England team that we drew against at the U17 WC, and 2) a prelimiary roster is not out yet.
There is a random 5-nation tournament in India running from 5/15 to 5/23. The participating countries are Korea, USA, Tanzania, India, and Malaysia. I wish I could say something about the roster but the only player I recognize is striker Kim Chan of Pohang Steelers HS, who is apparently being called the next Hwang Hee Chan right now (though Kim is not nearly as prolific as Hwang was).