Name: Kim Minjae (김민재)
Club: Jeonbuk Hyundai FC (Korea)
Height: 189 cm
Weight: 70 kg
Oh Kim Minjae… if it hadn’t been for an unfortunate injury this man would have played all 3 games in the World Cup for the senior team. The 21-year old baby faced “monster-defender” (the media actually sometimes calls him 괴물수비수) already has 7 caps for the KNT and 42 apps for Jeonbuk.
Kim Minjae certainly did not follow a traditional career trajectory. He went to uni at Yeonsei and excelled, but chose to join a 3rd division team (Gyeongju KNHP) rather than signing a professional K League contract. In hindsight it worked out because he was an immediate starter there and was picked up by Jeonbuk within a single season, where he was an established started in his first season.
And the rest, they say is history – he became famous as the undisputed best CB in the K League according to the media, and got called up to the KNT. He’s blown hot and cold on the KNT, sometimes mis-timing going off the line / being too aggressive in chasing the ball (Northern Ireland come to mind, anyone?). He also made some mis-judgments in his Jeonbuk return, making an unnecessary slide tackle allowing Incheon’s Jin Seongwook to score. That being said, he’s clearly the best defender of this generation. Kim Youngkwon made mistakes but he went from a guy who was constantly being insulted to a master defender during the World Cup (and during the 2012 Olympics if you remember) so… I guess we have to hope the best of Kim Minjae shows up at this tournament.
Name: Hwang Hyunsoo (황현수)
Club: FC Seoul (Korea)
Height: 183 cm
Weight: 80 kg
23-year-old Hwang Hyunsoo is firmly expected to start along side Kim Minjae in the CB line. He’s a guy who’s been with Seoul his whole life – he went to Osan Middle School and Dongbuk high school before signing his first pro contract straight out of high school (as opposed to going to uni). He didn’t get any playing time his first two seasons with Seoul, not even as a sub, but his luck has turned around since then and now he’s an important member of the FC Seoul starting XI. In the 2017 season he scored 3 goals in 24 starts, and he’s going strong to this day.
In terms of KNT experience, Hwang is relatively inexperienced – he’s played some freindlies here and there for the U20 team, and only recently was called up to the South Korea U23. Despite being a late bloomer, however, he will play an important role in our quest for military exemption.
Admittedly, Hwang Hyunsoo is not a guy who I’ve seen too often. I only caught a glimpse of him during the AFC U23’s earlier this year, but the whole team was just so bad I don’t want to judge him off of that alone (HHS did score a nice header against Uzbekistan tho). Here’s a highlight of his season last year if you’re interested… nothing too much of note
Name: Kim Jinya (김진야)
Club: Incheon United FC (Korea)
Height: 174 cm
Weight: 66 kg
Also a youngster to be excited about. He was hyped greatly during his high school years, and starred at all levels of KNT youth teams. He was somewhat controversially snubbed for the U20 held in Korea, but he opened up to the media about how that became a motivating factor for him. And his club career has been going pretty well for someone his age in the K League. At the age of 18 (!!) he made appearances for Incheon – largely as a sub, but also played decently well for his inexperience from what I’ve heard – and now he’s finally getting regular minutes for Incheon, although not always as a starter. He even netted his first goal earlier this summer. For the U23 team this summer… he’s the guaranteed starting left back (we didn’t call up any others)
Most people probably remember this guy from the 2015 U-17 World Cup where he played alongside LSW and co, playing an important role as our left winger / right winger. Don’t expect him to play LW/RW anymore, because nowadays, he’s a wingback. Given that Kim Jinya and Lee Siyeong play in 3/5 back systems, it’s likely that Kim Hakbum will choose that formation as well. In my opinion it’s a waste of talent to have him defending, because he could solo dribble his opponents back in HS. Michael can tell you more about Kim Jinya, but from the highlights I’ve seen… 1) he’s slightly defensively suspect in that he’s a little too offensively oriented, and 2) he’s not showing that level of dribbling ability in the K League. However, we’re looking at AFC U23 opponents here, the same opponents that our U19 team defeated a few days ago. I think he’ll manage just fine, though the fatigue might really kick in given he needs to play 7 games in 17 days. And wingbacks have to run constantly…
Name: Jeong Taewook (정태욱)
Club: Jeju United FC (Korea)
Height: 195 cm
Weight: 88 kg
Korea seems to consistently produced defensive talent at the youth levels. From Jang Hyunsoo (before you lynch me for saying this, remember that he was very good back in 2011 before regressing into Zhang Hien Xu today) to Yeon Jeimin to Lee Sangmin… Jeong Taewook surely enters the picture as a KNT youth team stalwart CB. Like Kim Jinya he went down the elite path and impressed at a very early age (though his hype was partly due to his height – he’s only 2 cm shorter than the Wookie). But unlike the Wookie, Jung uses his height very well, at the youth level of course. His dominating aerial presence and heading ability has served the team well on so many occasions. Though I expect Hwang Hyunsoo to start over Jung due to being vastly more experienced, I have wondered if Jeong might be more effective next to Kim Minjae. Tim and I have talked about how Kim MJ and Jeong TW’s styles complement each other pretty well – Jeong as the stopper and Kim MJ as the ball winner/sweeper – but all this goes to moot if Kim Hakbum goes 3-back, because the center 3 is 100% going to be KMJ – HHS – JTW (unless Kim Gunwoong fills in, which has been reported in the media).
You can clearly tell I like this guy a lot, but a little more about his history – he went to uni, just signed for Jeju united (has 4 short sub appearances), and has 5 goals in 22 appearances for the U20 team – all were headers from set pieces. I would not be surprised if he scores form a corner or FK this tournament, because he’s pretty reliable on that end.
Name: Kim Moonhwan (김문환)
Club: Busan I’Park FC (Korea)
Height: 173 cm
Weight: 64 kg
I’m going to be completely honest with you guys, I know nothing about this guy. I vaguely remember Jae wasn’t too hyped when he was called up… but I’ve asked Jae about this guy and I will quote him here:
He kinda burst onto the scene last year under Cho Jinho and became a favorite of the coaching staff very quickly. He’s most notable for his versatility and has been utilized pretty much anywhere wide. Originally a right midfielder/winger, he’s been transitioned to wingback/full back.
He’s one of those guys that doesn’t excel at any particular thing. Upper KL2 or lower KL1 is his limit and he’ll never been senior nt material. I imagine he’s in the squad purely bc of his versatility. He’s right-footed but has been used on the left (again anywhere on the flank) on occasion.
Name: Lee Siyeong (이시영)
Club: Seongnam FC (Korea)
Height: 173 cm
Weight: 65 kg
I’ve never heard of this guy until fairly recently. He was never extensively involved with youth setups, I don’t know anything about his high school / uni background (I do know he chose uni over straight professional), and he only just joined Seongnam this season (and isn’t getting too much playing time). He made his first KNT U23 appearance earlier this year and is looking like he’ll be our starting RB this tournament. From what I’ve seen of him, my personal verdict is “good enough”. He was tidy in possession, seems to be more defensively minded than offensively minded, and just kinda did his job. It was against weak opposition though, so I am still looking forward to what he can do against “stronger” teams. There may be a chance Kim Moonhwan might take his spot, though – we will see in a few weeks.