National Team Callups (October 2016): The Wookie Returns

Uli Stielike has just announced his 23-man roster for the World Cup Qualifying matches in October against Qatar and Iran.

The full squad list is below as well as six thoughts from Tim, including Stielike looking to save face, lower expectations and how to make the most of Wookie’s inclusion.

Kim Seunggyu (Vissel Kobe)
Kim Jinhyeon (Cerezo Osaka)
Kwoun Suntae (Jeonbuk Hyundai)

Kim Kihee (Shanghai Shenhua)
Hong Jeongho (Jiangsu Suning)
Jang Hyunsoo (Guangzhou R&F)
Lee Yong (Ulsan Hyundai)
Kwak Taehwi (FC Seoul)
Jeong Dongho (Ulsan Hyundai)
Oh Jaesuk (Gamba Osaka)
Hong Chul (Suwon Bluewings)

Jung Wooyoung (Chonqqing Lifan)
Kim Bokyung
Lee Jaesung (both Jeonbuk Hyundai)
Han Kookyoung (Al-Gharafa)
Lee Chungyong (Crystal Palace)
Ki Sungyueng (Swansea City)
Nam Taehee (Lekhwiya)
Koo Jacheol
Ji Dongwon (both Augsburg)
Son Heungmin (Tottenham Hotspur)

Suk Hyunjun (Trabzonspor)
Kim Shinwook (Jeonbuk Hyundai)

The back-ups are: Kim Dongjun, Hwang Uijo (both Seongnam), Kim Minhyeok (Sagan Tosu), Ko Kwangmin, Yun Illok (FC Seoul), Hwang Heechan (FC Red Bull Salzburg)

Notable omission is Park Chuyoung (FC Seoul).

Reaction to follow…

Tim’s thoughts

Other writers may chime in here, and I might expand upon this eventually, but just a couple quick thoughts before bed:

1) Did Stielike cave into pressure?

For the first time in two years since taking the KNT job, Stielike faced heavy pressure after Korea almost blew a three goal lead to China and couldn’t crack Syria. One of the criticisms was his stubbornness to not call up a full 23-man roster. Although he insists now that he doesn’t think it will make much of a difference (which is more indicative of how he doesn’t have a coherent Plan B for the KNT than anything else), Stielike said he wanted to avoid “unneeded controversy”.

2) No Park Chuyoung – no big deal?

Stielike again snubbed Park Chuyoung from a call-up. He avoided mentioning him in his press conference and doesn’t seem to want to even say his name, despite regularly attending FC Seoul matches. I think this is a calculated decision by Stielike. Yesterday, I said that Stielike’s KNT has been much like his personality – “hard-working, but quiet, calm, and content with being simple and maybe even uninventive”. Park Chuyoung brings with him baggage and expectation — success and Uli is a genius, failure and he is heavily condemned. Once again, Uli doesn’t seem to want to shroud the team in controversy and media headlines.

Going back to the previous point, that’s probably why he wanted 23-men this time. Just to avoid the fuss and criticism. Korean media is like a bear – do unconventional things without success and you’re just poking it, no sh*ts given.

3) The right things : Kimbo and Not-One-Eyed-Anymore Kwak

Stielike made two very good call-ups this time, and that’s Kim Bokyung and Kwak Taehwi. Kimbo has had as good of a season as you can have at Jeonbuk — which is very good, as I mentioned in yesterday’s opinion post. His inclusion should have happened last month. Time and time again this season, clubs have said to Jeonbuk, “get past us”, and time and time again it’s been so easy for Kimbo and company in midfield.

Over at FC Seoul, their defensive weaknesses of the first half of the season  have largely been ironed out with Kwak Taehwi being brought into the club over the summer. His aerial prowess compensates for his slow, grappling nature, and Stielike acknowledged he erred in not calling up the once-hated-now-praised veteran last month. “A veteran player like Kwak would have been able to maintain discipline within the team.”

4) So, Wookie is Plan B?

The Korean team we saw against China and Syria was allergic to playing in the middle of the pitch – a standard showing for this team was a heavily wide-midfield based one. Chances didn’t necessarily abound, and creativity wasn’t really what it could have been. Keep it simple, stupid is a good expression to apply when it actually works — it didn’t entirely last month.

Ideally, Stielike would then want a Plan B to rely on, which he didn’t visibly last month. Obviously, if this were a  club team, you’d want plan B to be one abounding in a high-tempo, energy-oriented approach — or at least be able to rely on a super sub -> a simple Plan B that is ideal for international play. But Stielike doesn’t have the time to build and test the former now, and the latter is nonexistent (Kwon Changhoon has shown time and time again, he needs to start to have an impact, and he’s in poor form now anyways).

So, long-ball football kind of makes sense, I guess. Kim Shinwook has been playing consistently for Jeonbuk, though I have to say still, not very well. If we see Wookie play, the only scenario where I’d think his inclusion would be smart would be if he comes on around the 70th minute against tired defenders — and maybe not even a like for like sub with the striker, take out a midfielder and go 4-4-2 like Choi Kanghee does at Jeonbuk. In other words, if Wookie starts a game with his slow pressing, lack of mobility, subpar finishing skill, then Uli clearly hasn’t learned his lessons.

5) Lowering Expectations

Although Stielike’s press conference was centered heavily around repentance and determination for renewal (“my way” became my bad in this press conference), he also said something notable when asked about how difficult Iran would be as an opponent, especially at the Azadi.

“The Qatar game is even more important. We can’t drop more than 8 points to qualify. I haven’t really been thinking about Iran.”

Again, the question was specifically about the Iran game. It seems to me tha this isn’t the standard “one step at a time” answer where the manager can kind of say “we’ll cross that bridge when we get there”. Instead, the attitude, the demeanour – emphasizing the importance of beating Qatar so as to be able to qualify with at least 22 points – and the deliberate ducking of the Iran question, not even throwing in a “Iran will be difficult” line, is interesting. He also took time to mention how Wookie or Hong Chul will be “important against Qatar”.

Maybe Stielike is trying to lower expectations. Put the pressure on Iran, or at the very least, off of himself and his job, should Korea come short at the Azadi, where I think we all agree a draw will do.

6) All in all?

I’m come to accept Stielike will never call-up all the players I want him to. That’s probably for the best. Still, these call-ups are ones I can reasonably justify and don’t have much nitpicking or complaining to do with.

The lead paragraph in an article on Korean media today read: “2 years have elapsed. The Stielike honeymoon is over.” Now, I’m not sure when it even began, but the truth of the sentence is undeniable. I think Uli’s got the right players to do the job. It’s now all about training, tactics and execution. Easier said than done, but I’d say this team selection – step one of “Mission: Save Face”, has largely been successful.



About Tim Lee 321 Articles
The maple syrup guzzling kimchijjigae craving Korean-Canadian, eh?


  1. Okay call-up, a pretty safe squad and I think Stielike’s tendency of not wanting any controversy near the NT shows here. PCY being called up would’ve brought a lot of media attention to the NT, so I can see why he would not want to call him up along with his obvious downsides like age. Not really sure why KSW has been called up, his scoring record for the NT has been atrocious. I dislike Nam Tae Hee being called up even more, his level of play has been mediocre at best with zero improvement in the last few years. Only reason to call him up is because he plays in Qatar, which is a crap reason.

    (can someone delete the other comment which I accidentally replied to another comment with)

  2. Okay PCY may be in his 30s and may cause controversies but in my opinion I expected his call up. I get PCY could play poorly and cause even more criticism but I wish he would have at least made the back-up squad now. Oh well Stielike called up Kim Bo Kyung and I was happy about that. I’m pretty satisfied for the most part regarding this team

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