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.
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
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.
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.
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.