Let’s build the 23-man World Cup roster!
The rules are rather simple: 23 players, 3 of whom must be goalkeepers. Funnily enough, North Korea managed to screw this up back in 2010.
In: Kim Seung-gyu
Likely: Kim Jin-hyeon, Cho Hyun-woo
On the Fringes: Gu Sung-yun
Barring a dramatic return by Jung Sung-ryong, the goalkeeping situation is beginning to come a little clearer. Though the number 1 spot could still be up for grabs, for now it’s Kim Seung-gyu who remains in pole position and in any case won’t drop off of the roster, that’s for certain. Kim Jin-hyeon continues to ride the 2015 Asian Cup hype, while Cho Hyun-woo received plaudits against Serbia and Shin Tae-yong had lots of praise for the Daegu goalkeeper who has kept 10 clean sheets in the K League this season. That said, Gu Sung-yun did get a look in the October friendlies, so perhaps Shin wants his Olympics netminder in Russia.
In: Kim Young-gwon
Likely: Jang Hyun-soo, Kwon Kyung-won, Kim Min-jae
On the Fringes: Jung Seung-hyun, Kim Ki-hee
Whether you’re a fan or not, there’s absolutely no chance that Kim Young-gwon doesn’t return to the World Cup, based on experience alone. Jang Hyun-soo, for all his flaws, is growing into something of a Shin Tae-yong favorite, while Kwon Kyung-won and Kim Min-jae earned plaudits in October and September, representing the young blood who can do a job. However, I’d say that the Jeonbuk startlet has an edge over Kwon Kyung-won, and the latter may be vulnerable if a player on the fringes (or off the chart completely) rounds into form.
In: Kim Jin-su, Kim Min-woo
On the Fringes: Yun Suk-young
Left-back almost seems locked up. Kim Jin-su missed out on the 2014 World Cup due to injury, but he’s worked his way into a starting role even after moving to the K League. He seems to really fit Shin’s style of play, and it’s hard to see him miss out. Kim Min-woo had a good showing against Serbia and seems set to be the back-up, maybe also because of the lack of options. Yun Suk-young hasn’t had a look in ages, and if he’s left off of the East Asian Cup squad then that will be it for this position.
In: Choi Chul-soon
On the Fringes: Rim Chang-woo, Oh Jae-suk
Will Shin call-up a proper replacement right back, or will he let Jang Hyun-soo or Ko Yo-han cover in case of injury to Choi Chul-soon? That seems to be the question right now, as Choi really cemented his spot with two largely good games in November. Despite being a little jumpy and erroneous at times, the challengers – Rim Chang-woo and Oh Jae-suk – haven’t had a proper look, and don’t really seem like they’ll get that chance, Shin having opted to play Lee Chung-yong as the RWB in October instead.
In: Ki Sung-yueng, Koo Ja-cheol
Likely: Ko Yo-han, Jung Woo-young, Lee Myung-joo, Lee Chang-min
On the Fringes: Nam Tae-hee, Kim Bo-kyung, Joo Se-jong
Captain Ki Sung-yueng is a lock, Koo Ja-cheol will also go (despite no one really knowing where to play him). Ko Yo-han had a superb showing against Colombia and that performance alone might cement his spot in Russia, while Jung Woo-young, for reasons inexplicable, really doesn’t seem to ever go away and might go as a back-up. Lee Myung-joo and Lee Chang-min are both natural central midfielders, but played out wide, for so their flexibility I can see them going. A little asterisk on Lee Myung-joo – he’s going to the army next season, so that could be problematic for his form. That said, some experienced and popular options lie on the fringes, so the EAFF Cup and March friendlies will be highly competitive for those spots.
In: Kwon Chang-hoon, Lee Jae-sung
Likely: Yeom Ki-hun, Lee Chung-yong
On the Fringes: Hwang Il-soo
Kwon Chang-hoon and Lee Jae-sung should, barring injury, plan to be starters in Russia. Their tireless, hard-working nature fits Shin’s system perfectly. However, given the running they will do, the rotation options must be good. Yeom Ki-hun will be a good locker room presence and had impact off of the bench, and while Lee Chung-yong may not be a wing-back, he just can’t be passed over. Hwang Il-soo seems like a longshot.
In: Son Heung-min, Lee Keun-ho
Likely: Hwang Hee-chan
On the Fringes: Lee Jung-hyub, Ji Dong-won, Suk Hyun-jun, Kim Shin-wook
Son Heung-min will go, and pray to the heavens he doesn’t get injured. Lee Keun-ho has stapled a place in Russia for me after these friendlies – the attack looked especially more threatening when he worked with Son. Hwang Hee-chan is another player you could imagine playing with Son as a two-top, with his pace, skill and fluid movement. Shin could elect to call up one of Ji, Suk or Kim for something entirely different to give himself some options. Lee Jung-hyub will probably only go if there’s an injury.
As It Stands, Korea’s 23-man roster will probably be:
Goalkeepers (3): Kim Seung-gyu (Vissel Kobe), Cho Hyun-woo (Daegu FC), Kim Jin-hyeon (Cerezo Osaka)
Defenders (7): Choi Chul-soon, Kim Jin-su, Kim Min-jae (all Jeonbuk Hyundai), Kim Min-woo (Suwon Samsung), Jang Hyun-soo (FC Tokyo), Kim Young-gwon (Guangzhou Evergrande), Kwon Kyung-won (Tianjin Quanjian)
Midfielders (10): Ki Sung-yueng (Swansea), Koo Ja-cheol (Augsburg), Ko Yo-han, Lee Myung-joo (both FC Seoul), Jung Woo-young (Chongqing Lifan), Lee Chang-min (Jeju United), Yeom Ki-hun (Suwon Samsung), Kwon Chang-hoon (Dijon), Lee Jae-sung (Jeonbuk Hyundai), Lee Chung-yong (Crystal Palace)
Forwards (3): Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur), Lee Keun-ho (Gangwon FC), Hwang Hee-chan (Red Bull Salzburg)
And the Starting XI…