KNT Stock Watch: Challenge Edition

Photo Credit: Korea Joongang Daily.

The challenge for me is simple: can I get inside head coach Paulo Bento’s head and predict his selections for the November friendlies in Australia? Paulo Bento will have a Monday morning press conference to announce his squad for the friendly matches with Australia and Uzbekistan in Brisbane. We already know two players who won’t be selected: Son Heung-min (the KFA agreed with Tottenham to give him a rest in November in exchange for his Asian Games participation) and Jang Hyunsoo (read why here). As for the rest, let’s see whose stock is Trending Up and Trending Down for a spot on the squad in Australia.

  • Goalkeepers

Trending Up: This is a tough one. All three incumbent goalkeepers, Kim Seunggyu, Kim Jinhyeon, and Jo Hyeonwoo, are consistent performers at the club level and seem to have the skills necessary to be Korea’s No. 1 goalkeeper. In addition, it looks as though Bento hasn’t settled on who his No. 1 is either, evidenced by all three being given starts across Bento’s four matches in charge. Look for all three to make the squad and for Jo to try to leave a better impression on Bento if given the chance to start (read my thoughts on his Panama performance here).

The Verdict: Kim Seunggyu, Kim Jinhyeon, Jo Hyeonwoo

  • Defenders

Trending Up: Kim Jinsu. He’s back from injury and back amongst the goals for Jeonbuk, scoring in a 3-1 victory over Ulsan today in Korea. Bento will absolutely want to have a look at a fit again Kim at leftback. Jung Seunghyun is also enjoying quite the club season, starting in the first leg victory for Kashima Antlers in the AFC Champions League final against Persepolis. The Kim Minjae and Kim Younggwon centerback pairing should get some more playing time together in Australia as well. The question is: who will Bento call in to replace Jang? I imagine Bento will go with a defender he’s watched and select an Asian Games CB Cho Yumin for his first senior call-up. Park Jisoo, Kim Moonhwan, Park Jooho and Lee Yong also look set to keep their places in the squad.

Trending Down: Hong Chul. I think Hong will be the man to make way for Kim Jinsu.

The Verdict: Kim Jinsu, Park Jooho, Jung Seunghyun, Kim Minjae, Kim Younggwon, Cho Yumin, Park Jisoo, Kim Moonhwan, Lee Yong.

  • Midfielders

Trending Up: Lee Chungyong. Chungy is finally back in the starting lineup at club level and has been very influential in the 2. Bundesliga for VFL Bochum. He’s racking up the assists once again and it makes sense that a veteran midfielder would be someone that Bento would want to try out in advance of Asian Cup in January. Koo Jacheol is also back fit and should be able to make his first appearances for Bento, perhaps as a attacking or central midfielder alongside Ki. Speaking of Ki Sungyeung, he had a great appearance off the bench for Newcastle yesterday, earning an assist and propelling the Magpies to their first Premier League victory! Hwang Inbeom and Lee Jinhyeon, the Asian Games midfielders, continue to perform well in the K League. Both are getting involved in the scoring for Daejeon and Pohang on a regular basis!

Trending Down: Lee Seungwoo. It’s an interesting dilemma for Bento when he considers what to do about the prodigious talent of Lee Seungwoo. He had to see during the Asian Games that there is something special about Lee’s goalscoring ability. However, Lee still cannot seem to crack Hellas Verona’s starting lineup or make regular substitute appearances. Will that lack of competitive minutes at the club level hurt Lee’s form or will he continue to be able to earn call-ups to Bento’s squad?

The Verdict: Lee Chungyong, Koo Jacheol, Ki Sungyeung, Hwang Inbeom, Jung Wooyoung, Lee Jinhyeon, Lee Seungwoo, Nam Taehee.

  • Forwards

Trending Up: How do you replace Captain Son Heungmin? Well, Bento’s going to have to try out some ideas because Korea will also have to play two Asian Cup group stage matches (another part of the Tottenham agreement) without their talisman as well. The Hwang Bros, Uijo and Heechan, will definitely feature in Australia as they’ve shown that their performances in Indonesia could translate into Bento’s system. Suk Hyunjun may get another chance to impress Bento with a start up top in Australia. Lee Keunho, who missed the World Cup through injury, is back fit for Ulsan and would be a veteran option to look at. Lee Jaesung returned to the Holstein Kiel starting lineup and looks set to be able to play in Australia after having to head to Germany early during the October friendlies.

Trending Down: Moon Seonmin and Ji Dongwon. I think both players, Moon through lack of form and Ji through injuries, will be left off the squad.

On the Radar: Na Sangho and Jeon Sejin. Both are youth stars at the moment and it could be time to see how they will do at the senior level. Na was an important squad member in Indonesia and scores often for Gwangju FC. Jeon Sejin has lit up the AFC U19 Championship, which ended this morning with Korea as runner-up.

The Verdict: Hwang Uijo, Hwang Heechan, Suk Hyunjun, Lee Keunho, Lee Jaesung, Na Sangho.

I am very much prepared to make a lot of mistakes in my selections, but if I get all this players right be prepared for me to celebrate with an appropriate amount of glee tonight on Twitter (@mhwelch1211 if you’re keen on a follow)! The KFA presser is scheduled for 10 AM Monday morning KST and will be broadcasted live on Facebook here.


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


  1. LSW is def a headscratcher; is it his inconsistency? Those who see him day in & out in training/practice just aren’t giving him a chance. Verona sure, but Bento would have had eyes on Lee for himself so doesn’t just have to take Verona’s word for it.

    In fact, Bento already said there are plenty of talented guys in Lee’s position, meaning he hasn’t stood out. Does LSW just suck in practice? Like in metrics, he just doesn’t run that fast, or run drills as well/accurately?

    • I think it’s his physicality. He’s still young and on the thin side. He might need to bulk up a bit and Bento might worry that he’ll get muscled off the ball too often.

      I think LSW will have to transfer/get a loan this winter to play more. I hope he asks Verona to loan him out so he can get experience.

      • Yeah, roughly Messi-sized, tries to be as nifty, which can let you get away w/ not being big & strong lot of the time. I actually heard Messi is unexpectedly strong, it’s hard to knock him off. Coupled w/ his natural balance & control, dispossession is so rare.

        I did read somewhere, a former teammate of both Messi & Ronaldo (I forget who) comparing them both. That Ronaldo was a physical specimen cuz he worked out like a man possessed, but that he couldn’t ever remember seeing Messi in the weight room. Just a freakish natural.

        Oh since I’m here, I’d like to hear your thoughts on Hwang Hee Chan. He seems like the athletic beast-type coaches love, super-fast, strong & explosive quickness/ups in practice. Its only that he lacks that final coat of polish; is this a fair assessment? And how much “killer instinct” would you say he has? Cuz that final bit seems to be the difference maker, as super athletes can sometimes be a dime a dozen at that level.

        • So I really like what I’m seeing from Hwang lately. I think he’s still so raw. He’s still a U23 player remember. But as a winger, he has all the speed, bulldog tenacity, and athleticism to get the job done. As he gets more experience, he’ll get the goal scoring added in, but right now causing problems down the right flank will open up space for the better finishers like Sonny, Hwang Ui-jo, Lee Jaesung, Kwon Changhoon (when he’s back from injury) and Lee Seungwoo.

          In terms of “killer instinct”, he’s got it. He goes straight at the defense, takes on defenders one on one. He certainly will hopefully improve that killer instinct in front of goal but his drive forward shows a different kind of killer instinct. Just feel like he’s not afraid of defenders, wants to beat them with speed or skills.

          • Aus match tomorrow, Son & Ki out for rest/agreement, Hwang injury, down from 26 to 23. And not only is Lee not playing, he wasn’t even called up if only to replenish #s. What is going on? Is this really down to physicality? Or is Lee kinda meh now? Cuz when asked about Lee being left off, Bento again said “we got plenty of talent…”.

            Do you guys maybe have some connections who could shed some light (w/out y’know getting fired)? I’m only half joking when wondering if Lee maybe used some colorful/ill-advised Espanol around Bento, drawing his ire.

          • We don’t have any inside info on Lee SW.

            I’m gonna say he needs to play at the club level. He’s not going to the Asian Cup or going to get serious minutes for Bento unless he actually plays regularly at club level. He needs to get a loan or transfer away from Hellas. They literally never play him.

          • Also, Bento is not wrong in saying he has plenty of talent in that position. I’m guessing he views SW as a winger.

            In terms of wingers, the KNT has Sonny, Lee Jaesung, Hwang Heechan, Kwon Changhoon (after his return from injury). That’s 4 players who are above SW in the winger pecking order. I think SW just has to be urgent about finding a new club that commits to playing him. Hellas gave him a try last season and have now buried him on the bench.

            For a good comparison, this same thing happened to Park Jooho. He transferred to Dortmund, got a couple looks with the first team and then got buried with the reserves. Since he came back to Ulsan Hyundai, he’s back in the KNT.

            Not saying SW should come back to the K League, but there has to be European club that would want to play him. He literally is too talented to be sitting on the bench in his early 20s when he needs to be getting minutes to improve.

          • Agree about winger depth, I guess Lee doesn’t fit Bento’s idea of a striker (maybe still dreaming of Ronaldo harhar). But w/ Son, Hwang & Lee JS out, and a bit short-handed, you’d think Bento would want LSW available if only as a spare option. It’s not like Hellas is trying to conserve Lee like w/ Tott & Son.

            But to not even call him up, maybe just to give him some competitive minutes that he isn’t getting otherwise, either in garbage time or as a desperation sub. I hope you can understand my confusion, as well as whispers of “outside-the-pitch” suspicions cropping up.

            I remember when Bento was first hired, he said he only wanted players who were passionate about the NT. This isn’t to say Lee falls into this, and I know I’ve been questioning his character. I just really want him to fulfill the potential we all thought we saw.

          • Yeah, I can’t really understand why Bento wouldn’t give Lee the minutes in this situation. B/c you’re right, the situation would seem to make sense for Lee to get a call-up.

            I think everyone is kind of confused about what is going on with Lee. I doubt it’s something where Bento has a problem with Lee though. I just feel like Bento is sort of making it clear that Lee just isn’t one of the best wingers right now. It is probably not Lee’s character because KNT teammates always rave about what he’s like as a teammate.

            I’m hoping that Bento has told Lee to sort out his club situation and then when he’s in form and playing regularly he’ll get his shot for the National Team.

            This is a random thought that might also make some sense: what if Bento were playing Lee regularly but he just wasn’t playing well because he never plays for Hellas? I feel like both Bento and Lee would get a lot of criticism for it. Hopefully Bento is helping Lee by making sure he doesn’t turn into a target for media criticism.

            It definitely feels weird that Lee hasn’t played for Bento after playing well at the Asian Games, but we have to remember that the level of football at the Asian Games is way lower than the friendlies Bento is scheduling and the Asian Cup. It was huge Lee had a great tournament and got his exemption, but he’s gotta find a way to play at the club level before he can really make a case for the senior team. This is the same situation Paik Seungho is in, talented youngster but has to start getting first team minutes before you can start playing him in senior internationals.

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