Paulo Bento’s First KNT Squad: My Takeaways

Photo Credit: Yonhap News

In the midst of the Asian Games, the KNT’s brand-new manager was busy preparing for his first set of friendlies. On Friday the KNT will face off against Costa Rica in Goyang followed by a Tuesday match with Chile in Suwon. The squad has been out since August 26 but I wanted to take the time to give my takeaways from a very positive first squad from Paulo Bento!

Let’s go through position by position!

Goalkeepers

No surprise here because these are right now the 3 best GKs Korea has. Jo Hyeon-woo, fresh off Asian Games Gold and military exemption, will probably continue between the sticks and Bento will have a look at the two veterans backing him up. My takeaway: this group is solid for now but don’t be surprised to see Bento have a look at his other GK options in the October and November friendlies. He could certainly call up Gu Sung-yun, Song Bum-keun, Kim Dong-jun (if healthy), and any other K League keepers he’s impressed with.

Defenders

There’s quite a few things to talk about in this defender list. Let’s all address the elephant in the room: Jang Hyun-soo is not listed as a defender! What does this mean? Well, I hope it means he won’t be played as a CB! Let’s finally have a look at the Kim Young-gwon+Kim Min-jae pairing! For the FBs, we get to see the return of Yoon Suk-young, back in the K League and getting a lot of minutes for FC Seoul. Hong Chul and Lee Yong are KNT mainstays but the surprise pick is Kim Moon-hwan from the Asian Games!

I really like the Kim Moon-hwan pick. As a RB for the U23 squad at the Asian Games, Kim showed flashes of potential as the RB of the future for the KNT. One thing that really jumped out at me in terms of his skills was his willingness to cut inside when receiving the ball in space. We’ve gotten used to RBs, Lee Yong especially, getting the ball out wide and driving down the sideline before lobbing in a cross. While that can work, it’s important to also have the dribbling skill to cut inside a defender and then open up more passing options. Kim Moon-hwan offers something a little bit different at the RB position and it’s nice that his form at the Asian Games earned him his first senior call-up.

Midfielders

Jang Hyun-soo is listed as a midfielder. This means that Bento watched the Germany match and decided that Jang does have some value as a CDM. This is certainly a more sensible decision than playing him as a CB. In other news, I like the other 5 midfielders picked way more than Jang Hyun-soo!

This squad sees the return of Nam Tae-hee, who is still playing well in Qatar with Al Duhail SC. Jung Woo-young, fresh off a move to Qatar with Al Sadd SC, is also in the squad. Lee Jae-sung, Ki Sung-yeung, Ju Se-jong, and Hwang In-beom round out the midfielders.

Overall, Bento has gone with dependable KNT stalwarts while also giving himself a chance to look at some form calls as well. Hwang In-beom had a stellar Asian Games campaign where he showed off impressive passing vision to set up so much of Korea’s attacking moves. Nam Tae-hee is having a stellar season with Al Duhail in the AFC Champions League and deserves a chance to show whether he can translate that form into a KNT kit. Finally, Ju Se-jong (HYPE TRAIN) has played a huge part in leading Asan Mugunghwa to 2nd place in the K League 2 standings.

Forwards

To start, there are six players classified as forwards! This is surprising and could point to Bento favoring a 3-man forward line? Also, these six players are each very different types of forwards so it will be interesting to see how they are paired in attack.

From the Asian Games, Lee Seung-woo, Hwang Hee-chan, Hwang Ui-jo, and of course Son Heung-min will continue on in the KNT kit. I saw some really good chemistry developed at that tournament. Lee Seung-woo and Hwang Hee-chan enjoy playing a one-touch passing game together. Sonny did a lot of hold-up play while waiting for the right moment to spring Hwang Ui-jo free with a through ball.

Ji Dong-won is also finally back in a KNT kit and I think he will probably feature prominently in both matches because the Asian Games stars will need some rest. I’m not an avid Bundesliga watcher so I want you guys to get active in the comments and tell me what he brings to this squad. As of now, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Ji Dong-won is work rate.

Finally, everyone knows I love Incheon United players so I’m happy that Moon Seon-min continues to earn call-ups to the KNT. Moon brings tireless hustle, lots of K League goals, and all of those ridiculous dance moves to this squad. Seriously, we’ve shared tweets of his goal celebrations and they are worth a watch!

Final Thoughts

I’m naturally an optimist so I see a lot of positives in this squad. Bento has chosen tried and true KNT players but he was also willing to take a little risk and call in players playing well either at the Asian Games or for their clubs. Let me know your thoughts about this squad in the comments and keep an eye out for previews of the friendlies in the coming days!

About Michael Welch 39 Articles
That Halfie Korean-American who loves football (I mean, soccer).

22 Comments

  1. Here is my thoughts on Ji Dong Won. He is not clinical or ruthless enough and is injury prone. Although I much rather see him than Wookie, he may not be the best choice.

    • In terms of holdup play, hustle, and passing, do you think he could make a good partner for Son? Could he set up Sonny or Hwang Ui-jo so that those 2 can show their clinical finishing?

      • I think Ji Dong-won has the right skill set to be a good partner for Son. On another article, I said that Son needs be played like Ronaldo at Real Madrid and needs a good partner like Benzema. Like Benzema, Ji Dong-won seems like a jack of all trades and master of none. In the past, he’s played in various positions including CAM and winger. I think Son needs a partner who can allow him to just focus on being dangerous in the final third and doesn’t need a traditional striker partner. Like Sparky said, Ji Dong Won is not clinical or ruthless enough. Benzema has been criticized for same reasons, but he has stepped up when in matters. Hopefully, Ji can do the same.

        • Form/confidence is a big problem for Ji Dong-won though. I’m not sure if he’s going to get much consistent playing time this season for Augsburg. Even with Finbogasson(first choice striker) out injured, Augsburg’s manager prefers Gregoritsch(number 10) over Ji. One good thing is that Manuel Baum seems to really like Koo Ja-cheol and is willing to even play him out of position sometimes.

    • He hasn’t announced that officially yet. He just said he was considering it. I’m sure he’ll discuss it with Bento soon. My hope: he retires after winning the Asian Cup in January!

  2. Costa Rica and Chile will be GREAT tests for the squad and Bento. Let’s see how the midfield and defense can match up.

    • I hope we get Suk back in the KNT soon too. He’s getting used to his new club and I don’t think he’s starting just yet so probably makes sense to not select him atm.

  3. The return of Nam Tae-hee! I still don’t understand how the 2017 QSL Player of the Year (besting Xavi, who had a good season that year) can’t transfer to a different league. He recently turned 27 so the clock is ticking. Also if we could get a transfer for Kim Young-gwon while we’re at it, that would be great. Also, a bit of surprising news while the Asian Games were taking place: Hwang HC out on loan to Hamburg this season.

    I’m interested to see what Bento does with this time. It’s still very early, and he hasn’t had a chance to make his mark yet, but some of his selections are definitely intriguing. Yun Suk-young is back (anyone else remember his QPR days?). GK Jo is out with an injury so Song Bum-keun is in. No Park JH (still injured?). No Koo (maybe because he’s still fighting for time at Augsburg). No Lee CY (no surprise given his team situation, though hopefully he’s close to signing with someone: https://twitter.com/KORFootballNews/status/1037330256774946816). And no Suk (who is also battling for a place in the lineup over at Reims.

    Yonhap reported Bento is expected to employ a 4-3-3 against Costa Rica (http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/news/2018/09/05/0200000000AEN20180905006900315.html). Any predictions on lineup?

    Lee Y – Kim YG – Kim MJ – Yun SY?

    Lee JS – Ki – Ju SJ or Nam TH (or maybe even Hwang Im-beom?)

    Ji DW (or Hwang Ui-jo?)- Son – Hwang HC

    Lee SW as a super sub. It’s tough to tell how many minutes the Asian Games players will get…

    • I think that line-up is a pretty good prediction to be honest! For the Asian Games players, maybe they’ll start on the bench and then come on for a cameo in the second half?

  4. I thought part of the Spurs deal to allow Sonny to play is that he won’t play for these upcoming friendlies.

    • The deal with Spurs is that Sonny will not be selected for the friendlies in November with Australia and Uzbekistan in Brisbane. In addition, Sonny will stay with Spurs a bit longer during the Christmas period and won’t play the first 2 group stage matches of the KNT’s Asian Cup campaign. For Spurs, holding him out of the Australia friendlies is pretty helpful because he’ll avoid the marathon travel during the crucial Champions League group stage matches that are so important for Spurs.

      • Yup- also it’s an international break right now and since Sonny was already in Indonesia, having a stopover in Korea is not a huge problem.

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