Asian Games: K League Players Vying To Make The Team

The Asian Games are coming up in August, and manager Kim Hak-bum recently held a training camp for 25 youth players vying to make the 20-man Asian Games squad. All of these players are domestic-based, with the exception of Seo Young-jae (Hamburg) and Paik Seung-ho (Girona/Peralada). And of course we can’t forget over-age wild cards or U-23 Korean Players Abroad like Lee Seung-woo and Hwang Hee-chan. I’m here to break down the Korea-based players you may not have heard of!

By now I’m sure you all know why the Asian Games is so important so I’ll skip that in this post. I’m going to go through each position and give my take on the current training camp squad and how it could possibly be whittled down to 20. We’ve checked Naver and it’s looking like the KFA is set for a Monday morning Seoul presser to announce the 20-man Asian Games squad. We’ll have that for you on Sunday night in North America! For now, let’s look at the 25-man squad that trained with Kim Hak-bum in June at the Paju NFC/Indonesia (they played some scrimmages with Indonesian clubs to get used to the summer weather there! I bet it’s even hotter than Korean summers!)

Photo Credit: @thekfa Instagram


At the GK position, the Asian Games rules stipulate that 2 goalkeepers must be taken of the 20 players selected. For now we’re operating on the assumption that Cho Hyun-woo is now in line for one of those GK spots.

For the other GK, while Park Dae-han and Kang Hyeon-mu are solid GKs, Song Bum-keun is my clear favorite to join Cho in Indonesia. Song was the starting GK for the U20 World Cup team last summer, has nailed down a starting role at K League Champions Jeonbuk Hyundai in his rookie year, and already received interest from scouts in Europe! Basically, Cho and Song are the future GKs for the KNT and the Asian Games will be a chance for them to prove why.

Alright, let’s move to the defense. The defense looked a bit fragile at the AFC U23 Championship this past January in China but let’s hope a combination of more pro-level K League minutes and some tactical coaching from Kim Hak-bum gives us a more solid back line in Indonesia!

Let’s start with the obvious pick for one CB spot if he is fit: Kim Min-jae. The youngster was tipped for the World Cup before a cracked shinbone ruled him out and has European scouts having a look as well. He is still not fully recovered (let’s wait and see on that soon) but his reading of the game and aggressive tackling skills will be great if we can get him into the squad!

Kim Jeong-ho and Kim Jin-ya from Incheon United are certainly good players, but I don’t know if they will make this squad. Kim Jeong-ho currently is not even starting regularly for Incheon’s reserves, so I think he would be a long shot for this squad. In terms of Kim Jin-ya, he’s a regular off the bench for Incheon in the K League and actually plays more as a winger than as a defender. With the resumption of the K League this past weekend and the appointment of new manager Jorn Andersen, he has started 2 straight matches as a right winger. He is tenacious, has a bit of attacking instinct/shooting skills, and has good workrate overall so Kim Hak-bum may be considering him for a right wingback role.

Jeong Tae-wook from Jeju is in his rookie year and already making the subs bench on a regular basis. He was a stalwart CB for the U20 World Cup squad and figures to be a have a great chance to start if called up for the squad. He also offers a bit of a tactical wrinkle too, since Jeju United play in a 3-back defensive system. That tactical training he is getting at club level could be useful if Kim Hak-bum decides to go with a 3-back system.

Ulsan’s Lee Sang-min hasn’t made the K League squad on matchdays the past few games so he’s going to go down as a long shot for this roster with Kim Jeong-ho. Seongnam’s Lee Si-young will probably be a long-shot as well. He makes the bench for his K League 2 side but with other K League 1 options available I think he might not make this squad.

FC Seoul’s Hwang Hyun-soo has nailed down a role in this Seoul side and I think should Kim Min-jae not be fit he may be the best option to pair with Jung Tae-wook. He started in 3-0 win over the weekend so he’s got a K League cleansheet (a hard thing to achieve) under his belt!

Cho Yu-min of Suwon FC might be a longshot but he could provide another bit of tactical versatility that could be useful to this squad. He started Suwon FC’s last K League 2 match as a CDM in the midfield. This could make him useful as the central CB of a 3-back/5-back system. Basically, if you slot him in as a CB, he can transition to deep-lying midfielder when the ball is won back and we look to start an attack. That kind of tactical flexibility could certainly be useful!

Finally, Kim Moon-hwan plays for Busan IPark as a wing-back or full-back so that’s now 2 FB/WBs in the team. He could certainly provide a nice little back-up option for Kim Jin-ya or even win the starting RB/RWB spot to play opposite Seo Young-jae.

This midfield is going to be stacked and it is certainly going to be hard to cut players from this 25-man list to accommodate European-based youth stars or over-age wildcards. I am going to make a few selections based on which players I think have a reasonable shot at the squad. The midfield will definitely include Paik Seung-ho and Lee Seung-woo (aka the Barca Boys). Hwang In-beom, Tim’s favorite youth player, is also highly rated and has a great shot at this squad off his stellar play for Asan Mugunghwa this season in the K League 2 (remember this is the police academy club so that counts toward his military duty).

Lee Jin-hyeon has just ended his loan spell with Austria Wien and slotted right into the Pohang midfield this past weekend! He is an attacking midfielder that surprised us all last fall by featuring a lot for Wien and scoring goals before some niggling injuries meant a loss of form. He’s very talented, played a part at the U20 World Cup, and could have a bright future in Europe ahead if he can win this exemption. Wien had an option to buy from Pohang at the end of the loan but maybe declined because they worried about his military situation.

Let’s add a few more to the list. I like Kim Hyeon-ug from Jeju. He’s a little dynamo of an attacker and is featuring heavily for Jeju this season. He plays hard, gets into good scoring positions, and would be a nice asset off the bench for this squad. Lee Seung-mo from Pohang was also a member of last year’s U20 World Cup squad and could make this squad as a CM. Amongst Han Seung-gyu, Kim Geon-woong, Lee Dong-gyung, Jang Yoon-ho, and Hwang Ki-wook, I think that Hwang Ki-wook has the best shot at cracking this roster as he is the most consistent in terms of club playing time at the moment.

As a bit of a bonus surprise, Lee Kang-in, the 17 year-old sensation from Valencia CF, is rumored to be in the plans of Kim Hak-bum. We know he lit up an U21 Toulon Tournament and could very well do the same at an U23 Asian tournament. In addition, Kim Jung-min from RB Salzburg will also be in the mix for a spot even though he missed the training camp through injury I believe. He is right now viewed as a bit of a Ki Sung-yeung successor and at only 18 is coming through the ranks at RB Salzburg, currently getting minutes with their feeder club FC Liefering.

Finally, the forwards! We know Son Heung-min has permission to go, and we’ve already talked on the site about Hwang Ui-jo potentially going also. So, let’s pick one more from the youth ranks. From the three listed forwards above, I would pick out Na Sang-ho and Lee Keun-ho as the likely candidates. Na Sang-ho played for Kim Hak-bum when he was the coach of Gwangju FC and has remained one of Gwangju’s best performers. Lee Keun-ho (the young one) has already been featuring for Pohang this season and has scored a few goals already. If we’re looking for a surprise to make the squad not in this list, the two best candidates would be Cho Young-wook and Jeon Se-jin. Both have showed flashes for FC Seoul and Suwon Samsung Bluewings this season but Kim Hak-bum elected not to select them for his training camp. Let’s see if either of those two will do something in the next few weeks of K League fixtures to convince Kim to rethink that decision.

That’s a bit of a preview of the Asian Games squad as it looks right now. Kim Hak-bum is planning to announce his squad this Sunday so we’ll have a full squad preview on the main site when that happens! Leave some comments if you have any questions!

About Michael Welch 89 Articles
That Halfie Korean-American who loves football (I mean, soccer).


    • I think unfortunately Han Chan-hee, while he was highly regarded in the past, has fallen out of favor with the youth NT setup. I’ve seen an Incheon-Jeonnam match this season and thought he was not as good as I expected he would be. Didn’t really provide possession control in MF and got sent off for an absolutely reckless challenge early in the second half. He still starts a lot for Jeonnam these days but I would say he’s not going to make this side unless Kim Hakbum throws a major surprise curveball.

  1. I’ve never really commented on any of these articles, but I’ve been curious about Jang Gyeol Hee. Ever since the break up of the Barca boys, I feel like he’s the only one that isn’t really talked about. I’m not too familiar with his skill level and development post-ban. Any insight on how he’s doing or if he has a chance of making this Asian Games squad?

    • Yeah…. he just left Asteras Tripolis after playing for the reserves. He sort of got gradually converted into a fullback, and I seem to recall he was called up for a training camp at some point (U20? U23?) but hasn’t been re-called since. He’s not talked about because frankly there’s not much news about him & no one really knows what he’s up to. I’m assuming his skill level just isn’t good enough to break into the team at this point, didn’t make this training camp here. Unfortunate really.

      • Yeah, was just on Twitter talking with Steve Han about this and he was doubtful that Jang would get called in. Hopefully he keeps improving and can earn a call-up for Tokyo 2020!

  2. I really think Cho Young Wook has a lot of potential. Watching him play against players in K league, its hard not to notice his build and pace.

    • Couldn’t agree more. When FC Seoul have used Cho as a winger this season, he has looked very good. Knows how to use his pace to beat defenders and get a cross in or ghost in at the back post to finish a goal. If he doesn’t make this squad it’s not like he won’t also have a huge shot to make Tokyo 2020. The kid is just flat out good and I could certainly see him and Lee Seungwoo as dangerous wingers partnering with Son as the central striker in the future. Too much blistering pace and good technique to not give Sonny all the opportunities he’s hungry to score for the KNT.

  3. Great overview Michael – two things:
    1) Kang Hyunmu is way favored over Song Bumkeun – if Cho HW goes then SBK will surely get kicked out. Kang HM is older, has more first team experience, and frankly plays better
    2) Of those K League midfielders… Kim Gunwoong and Hwang Kiwook are locks imo. I think Cho Youngwook is more likely to get picked than Hwang IB, even though CYW isn’t really a MF. And the midfielder who’s the most likely to get picked no questions asked is Kim Jungmin. Dude runs the show for this team, Hakbumson loves him, and he hardly ever misses a game.

    • Oooh. You heard about his exploits at Bayern Munich right? Yeah, I think the Asian Games will be a bit early for him, especially considering the attacking options this squad will have. But he will certainly play at the U20 World Cup next summer!

    • I was talking to Jinseok who thought he has a shot, but… given his age & the fact that’s he just settling in to Bayern II I’m guessing he probably won’t make the team over others.

      That said he’s still 18 and he’s got Tokyo & the next Asian Games (Hangzhou?) if he continues in this current form.

      • I see… all his matches so far were very good for Bayern, but its propably uncertain how hell perform since hes been injured for so long…Man weve got some good attaacking prospects coming through…Hopefully Son doest retire with 28 like park js and ki ^^

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