The South Korean national football team has been seeing tremendous success following the historic 2-0 victory against Germany in the 2018 Russia World Cup. From the Asian Games, to Bento’s friendlies, and now the U20 World Cup, we have seen the rise of many new young stars.
For the A team, friendlies are now over, and qualifying rounds for the 2022 Qatar World Cup are beginning. To kick off this new chapter of Korean football, we thought we would have some fun and predict the 23 Man Roster of the 2022 World Cup.
Obviously a football team requires picking more than simply the 23 “highest rated” players. A team must be balanced, with the squad featuring various types of players who can fill specific roles. Another important component is leadership: the World Cup is a high-pressure environment, and the amount of experience a team has will have a significant effect on the stability of the team. While the team features a handful of youngsters with limited KNT experience, the squad intentionally maintained a fair share of experienced elders who have previously been part of a World Cup Squad.
The squad assumes a 4-4-2 formation, as Bento has seen most success with a four back defense and has been using a two-top system recently. One backup was chosen for each position.
Bento has been sticking to a relatively consistent pool of players, and it appears that these are the players he intends to use until the World Cup. It was assumed that Bento will serve a full term of four years, and his affinity for certain players was considered in predicting the team.
Goalkeepers: Kim Seunggyu, Cho Hyunwoo, Gu Sungyun
This has been the trio of goalkeepers that Bento has favored the most since Kim Jinhyun’s retirement from the National Team.
Kim Seunggyu, although not the flashiest player, has been to two World Cups- even if he is not the No. 1 Goalkeeper as he was during the 2019 Asian Cup, Bento is likely to continue selecting him, just for his experience. Kim Seunggyu will be 31 years old during the next World Cup.
Cho Hyunwoo was in superstar form during the 2018 World Cup, and has become a star in the K-League- he has recently been linked with trade rumours to Germany. Regardless of what league he is playing for, he is very likely to make the 2022 World Cup Roster. It is true that he has not yet become accustomed to Bento’s build-up style (part of the reason why he has not already claimed the No. 1 goalkeeper role), but he has vocalized his efforts to improve this component of his game.
Gu Sungyun is probably the least known goalkeeper of the three; however, there is a possibility that he may be the No. 1 goalkeeper for the 2022 World Cup. He is very well known for his passing abilites, meaning he may be best fit for Bento’s style. If he is the No. 1 goalkeeper, he will have two veterans to support him throughout training.
Honorable Mention: Lee Kwangyeon
Lee Kwangyeon shined during the recent U20 World Cup, making miraculous late game saves in seemingly every single match. Although he may eventually make the KNT team eventually, he has seen limited time on the pitch for Gangwon FC at this point, and is relatively short for a goalkeeper. Furthermore, while he made amazing saves, he still has to prove that he is effective at the build-up as well.
Defense: Kim Jinsu, Seo Youngjae, Kim Younggwon, Kim Minjae, Kwon Kyungwon, Jung Seunghyun, Kim Moonhwan, Park Yiyoung
Let’s start at left back. At this point, Kim Jinsu and Hong Chul have been playing most of the minutes for left back under Bento. Both have been solid, but neither have been playing well enough to secure the starting job. Enter Seo Youngjae, the 24-year-old left back who played for MSV Duisburg in the Bundesliga 2 throughout 2018-2019. He saw limited time on the pitch, but he has recently signed a contract with Holstein Kiel (Lee Jaesung’s team) this summer. Look for him to prove himself over the next few years.
As for the argument between Kim Jinsu and Hong Chul: Kim Jinsu was selected for the World Cup Squad and then tragically released due to injuries both 2014 and 2018, and it almost seems like the perfect movie ending for him to join the team for the 2022 World Cup and be a part of a successful team. This was the only reason Kim Jinsu was chosen over Hong Chul.
Now for the center backs. Kim Younggwon and Kim Minjae have proved to be an extremely successful centerback combo, and they will probably both be starters during the 2022 World Cup. Kim Younggwon will be 32 at the 2022 World Cup, which old but also not unheard of. He brings two World Cups’ experience, and should bring the composure and leadership needed to balance out the energetic Kim Minjae. Kim Minjae is skilled, fast, and physical, everything you can ask for in a defender. He has been dominant in the Chinese League, and it’s hard to believe that he is currently only 22 years old. Kwon Kyungwon, a player who is very similar to Kim Younggown (left-footed, tall, adept passers), will probably be Kim Younggwon’s backup, as Bento has continued to select him throughout friendlies. Kim Minjae’s backup is a little harder to choose. Jung Seunghyun was favored over Park Jisoo in this selection because of his experience in attending a previous World Cup, even if Park Jisoo seems to be favored by Bento at the moment. Jung Seunghyun has been battling injuries recently. However, he has seen immense success with the Kashima Antlers in the J1 league and always seems to have a calm presence on the pitch.
As for right backs, Kim Moonhwan is slowly becoming the starter. He has been showing strong performances in all appearances, playing solid defense while showing a great ability to overlap the wingers and join the attack. He is still young (23 years old) and has a very bright future with the KNT. Park Yiyoung is similar to Seo Youngjae, in that he also plays in the Bundesliga 2, but has not been receiving much attention from Bento. He has not played too much this past year, but has shown promise in certain games, and will hopefully show in the near future that he is a player who belongs in Germany.
On left back, Hong Chul is the obvious snub. Kim Jinya has also been fairly quiet since the Asian games, possibly because he is right-footed and not a natural left back.
At center back, Park Jisoo is someone who has been called for Bento, but did not crack this roster. Kim Hyunwoo led a very steady defense during the U20 World Cup, and is currently playing in Croatia, but his physical presence at a modest 183 cm may not be sufficient for his skills to translate at the A-team level. Jeong Taewook led the defense during the 2017 U20 World Cup in Korea, and although he has been through a bit of a slump, he has finally secured a starting job in the K League for Daegu this year. He is 194 cm, which may translate to better results against the more physically gifted foreign players.
At right back, Hwang Taehyun showed an amazing amount of leadership during the recent U20 World Cup as captain. However, he looked flat at times on the attack, and as much of a fighter he is, he may not yet have the skills to fit under Bento’s build-up attack. Lee Yong is a veteran who will be 35 by the 2022 World Cup. He has 6 World Cup matches under his belt, and is considered to be a leader for both Jeonbuk and the KNT. He may be added to the roster for his leadership, but his age makes it unlikely.
Midfielders: Baek Seungho, Jung Wooyoung, Hwang Inbeom, Kim Jungmin (Central Midfielders), Lee Jaesung, Kwon Changhoon, Lee Seungwoo, Lee Kangin (Wingers)
Let’s begin with the youngsters. Baek Seungho made his A team debut a few weeks ago against Iran, and was praised highly, both by the media and Bento. His passing abilities resembled Ki Sungyeung, and it looks like he will continue to receive opportunities in the future. He has shown an immense amount of potential in La Liga this season. His partner for the Iran match, Hwang Inbeom, has slowly secured the starting job for the KNT at just 22 years of age. He fits well under Bento’s system, and is eyeing a move to Europe within the next few years. He should see action in the 2022 World Cup.
Lee Kangin shined in the U20 World Cup, winning the Golden Ball. He is a superstar in the making, and has already been selected by Bento for the KNT team previously. It would not be a surprise to see him be a starter in the 2022 World Cup.
Kim Jungmin, one of Lee Kangin’s teammates during the recent U20 World Cup, is a player with a lot of potential. Although he struggled a bit during the tournament, especially during the finals, he has shown performances such as those in the Asian games that closely resemble Ki Sungyeung (they look shockingly similar too). He is playing in Austria, and was recently praised by a UEFA scout. He has already made his KNT team debut, something not even Lee Kangin has done yet. He will be 22 years old during the next World Cup.
Jung Wooyoung will be 32 years old during the 2022 World Cup. He is a solid physical presence, and always gives consistent performances. Furthermore, he has experience playing in the World Cup, being teammates with superstars like Xavi, and has even captained for Korea in a few matches. He should be a veteran leader for the 2022 Squad.
Lee Seungwoo should crack the 2022 World Cup roster. Although he has been used infrequently by Bento, Lee has visibly been putting in 100% effort during all of his appearances, showing Bento how much he wants to play. He also has World Cup experience, giving him a slight advantage over players such as Na Sangho.
Lee Jaesung is another one of those players who can always give a solid performance. He is a versatile passer and defender. He has been a regular in the KNT for a long time now, and should be for the 2022 World Cup as well.
Kwon Changhoon has been battling injuries for quite some time now, but we know what he is capable of when healthy. He is fast, physical, and skilled. As long as he is healthy, he should be selected for the 2022 World Cup.
The central midfielders on this team seem extremely attack-minded, with the minor exception of Jung Wooyoung. Players such as Choi Youngjun (Jeonbuk) could be selected by Bento for a defense-minded midfielder. Jang Yunho, while still developing, could be the defensive midfielder Bento needs as well. He was a leader for the U23 team during the 2018 Asian games. Han Chanhee and Ju Sejong are both adept passers, and Ju adds World Cup experience. They could potentially crack the World Cup Squad if any of the current CMs slump or get injured.
Now for the wingers. Lee Jinhyun has been selected by Bento consistently and has made a few appearances, but his performances have been relatively bland. He still has room to develop, but at this point, he lags slightly behind the players that have been selected.
Kim Insung and Moon Seonmin have been excellent in the K League, and have both been selected by Bento previously. They may eventually become regulars in the KNT, but at this point, they have not yet proved enough under the KNT, and do not show as much potential as other youngsters.
Lee Chungyong, similar to Lee Yong, could be selected for his experience. His form has been rising recently, too. The only catch is that he will be 33 during the next World Cup, and that there are similar players such as Lee Jaesung who could fill his role.
Strikers: Son Heungmin, Hwang Uijo, Jeong Wooyeong, Hwang Heechan
Son Heungmin and Hwang Uijo should easily make the World Cup roster as long as they don’t get injured or their form doesn’t fall sharply. Both will be on the verge of 30 by the next World Cup. Son is most likely going to be the captain of the 2022 Squad.
Hwang Heechan is a very interesting player. He has many, many critics, as he often lacks the finishing touch a striker needs. However, his physical abilities can be matched by no other Korean players, and he can be a lethal weapon if used correctly. He is in a bit of a slump in Europe right now, but I’m confident he will return to his usual self.
Jeong Wooyeong has been losing some of the spotlight recently because he was not allowed by Bayern to play in the U20 World Cup, but let’s not forget that he’s actually already made his Bundesliga debut at the age of 19. He is on the rise, and it should be exciting to see what kind of player he develops into.
Oh Sehun and Cho Youngwook have shown flashes of promise during the U20 World Cup, and may make appearances in the KNT. However, Oh Sehun still needs to develop to show that he is a complete striker, not just one who heads the ball, and Cho needs to show that he belongs in a team with many talented attackers playing in Europe.
Na Sangho has been making appearances for the KNT, and always seems to be giving 100%, but similar to Cho, he needs to show that he can compete with the European league players.
Look for Park Jungin to be on the rise. He is just 18 years old at the moment, but he has already made appearances at the K1 League for Ulsan. He scored two goals against the A Team in a practice match, and is considered to be one of the top prospects in Korea at the moment. The only player younger than him in this list is Lee Kangin.
HM: Lee Gwangyeon
HM: Hong Chul, Kim Jinya, Park Jisoo, Jeong Taewook, Kim Hyunwoo, Hwang Taehyun, Lee Yong
HM: Ju Sejong, Han Chanhee, Choi Youngjun, Jang Yunho, Moon Seonmin, Kim Insung, Lee Chungyong, Lee Jinhyun
Son Heungmin (C)
HM: Park Jungin, Cho Youngwook, Oh Sehun, Na Sangho
Obviously, this is a subjective prediction that will have no influence on the actual World Cup roster. Bento could opt for a totally different squad. I have to say, though, Korea is showing a lot of promise. There is an increasing amount of talented players in the top European leagues, and I expect a lot of success in the 2022 World Cup. Best of luck to Bento and Co. in the qualifying rounds.