Disclaimer: the final roster is out – our coverage can be found here.
On 6/5 (KST, 6/4 in the US) Korea’s head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is set to release his callups for the next round of friendlies vs Peru and El Salvador. We don’t expect there to be too many changes yet as Klinsmann has only been observing the K League for ~3 months now but it’s always fun to make some predictions about who we may see in the upcoming KNT matches.
Right off the bat, it’s worth noting that Kim Min Jae + Kim Young Kwon (the usual CB pairing) will not be available. KMJ has his mandatory 4 week military service, while KYK injured his hamstring in a recent match for Ulsan. So let’s start with the CBs. Previously the other callups were Kwon Kyung Won and Cho Yu Min. CYM, like KYK, is out with injury to the knee – so right now of the prior 4 callups we’re only left with KKW.
It’s pretty clear that we’d call up Park Ji Soo, who has established himself in the starting XI of Portugal’s first division club Portimonense. He has NT as well as European experience.
The final CB, in my opinion, has to be Lee Han Beom. I featured him in my K League transfers post and since his return from injury, he has impressed; on his first game back, Lee Young Pyo was waxing lyrical about him in the commentary. I seriously think he might be the best CB in the K League right now. You could argue for Jeong Tae Wook (Jeonbuk), Jung Seung Hyeon (Ulsan), or Kim Ju Sung (LHB’s CB partner at FC Seoul), but to me it’s clear that if anyone has the ability to play alongside Kim Min Jae on the NT it’s going to be LHB.
I would also recommend Kim Ji Soo of Korea U20 + Seongnam, but he is likely going to be tied down by his U20 duties (even if we crash out to Nigeria tomorrow I don’t think he’d be called up… the dude needs a break). Extensively scouted by European clubs and per Korean media very close to a transfer to Brentford AFC, he is also a very bright CB prospect. It’s almost surreal to see the CB position, one of our weakest historically, become one of our most saturated positions.
FB + DM has always been our weakest position. Last match we had Lee Ki Jae, Kim Jin Su (but was injured), Seol Young Woo (replacement for KJS), Kim Moon Hwan, and Kim Tae Hwan. I don’t expect this to change much but yet again, Kim Moon Hwan recently suffered a hamstring injury, so I figure that we will see the aforementioned 4 players called up.
One candidate that has been talked about in the media is Park Kyu Hyun who recently permanently signed for Dynamo Dresden of Germany’s third division. We know Klinsmann loves the Bundesliga and has no qualms about calling up players playing in lower leagues. Maybe he’ll be called up as a 5th FB. There’s also Yoon Jong Gyu who had been a regular with Bento (currently with Gimcheon for military service). I also want to give a shout out to Daegu’s Hwang Jae Won and Seoul’s Lee Tae Seok – they have been pretty good too, but probably won’t be called up any time soon.
The real question is: what’s our most ideal lineup? I’ve watched several Ulsan games this season and Seol Young Woo hasn’t been terrible – I think he deserves a starting place esp considering he can play LB or RB. This season he has been playing RB more as of late, but last season he was almost exclusively ont he left. I’ve watched less games of Jeonbuk and I can say that Kim Jin Su and Kim Moon Hwan have been less than impressive, though this may be attributable to Jeonbuk’s poor form. I’ve watched only one Suwon Bluewings match and can’t comment much on Lee Ki Jae’s form, but he was great in the prior friendlies. So maybe LKJ LB and SYW RB? Or KJS-SYW? Hard to say.
GK: I don’t expect any changes. Tho I will say that Lee Chang Geun of Daejeon (and past U20 heroics) has been in great form as of late
Hwang In beom is a lock. On the DM side we’re stuck with Jung Woo Young for sure. Son Jun Ho is not going to be called up as he is embroiled in a match fixing scandal in China (though he is due to return to Korea very soon). Paik Seung Ho is injured but on his way to resuming training, so he’s a question mark at the moment.
So on the CM/DM side of things we’re probably getting HIB + JWY as usual, but do we have any other candidates? Ulsan’s Park Yong Woo and Daejeon’s Lee Jin Hyeon come to mind. Both are playing well in the K League and featured a lot in the U20/U23 setups in the past. I would also put in a plug for Kwon Hyuk Gyu (very promising DM for Busan that had a move to Celtic blocked by the club @^#!*) but I don’t think his callup will be very likely.
On the AM/Winger side we had last time: Son Heung Min, Lee Jae Sung, Na Sang Ho, Lee Kang In, Kwon Chang Hoon, Song Min Kyu, Jeong Woo Young. I’m going to add Hwang Hee Chan to the mix because last time he was injured.
SHM HHC and LJS are not only locks on the team but also are already at Paju in Korea as the EPL and Bundesliga seasons have concluded. Na Sang Ho has been on FIRE for Seoul recently and is certain to be on the list as well. Song Min Kyu and Jeong Woo Young I’m fairly confident on. I don’t expect KCH to be called up – he hasn’t played a game since April.
Lee Kang In is a question mark only because there are U23 friendlies against China coming up, and Hwang Sun Hong told the media he would discuss with Klinsmann who gets LKI. I suspect U23 takes priority as the all important Asian Games is coming up, but historically our senior NT coaches win out in the battle for a player.
Is there a promising young attacking midfielder in the K League who might deserve a call up in LKI’s place? You bet – it’s Goh Young Joon of Pohang. He has likewise been on fire in the K League, but like LKI he was also born in 2001 and might be called up to the U23 team. Or maybe Klinsmann and Hwang Sun Hong will compromise somehow with these two? We shall see.
Funny enough there is actually one more promising young attacking midfielder who’s eligible for the upcoming 2023 Asian Games. He plays in Europe, has been playing pretty damn well, and mysteriously has never been called up yet. You guessed it – KAA Gent’s Hong Hyun Seok. Dude’s a regular for one of the top teams in Belgium and I would be shocked if Klinsmann doesn’t call him up at least once sometime this year.
Thus filling in for Kwon Chang Hoon I expect Hwang Hee Chan; filling in for Paik Seung Ho and Son Jun Ho I expect two of the following three: Paik Seung Ho (fitness uncertain), Lee Jin Hyun, and Park Yong Woo; and Lee Kang In is a mystery but one of the following three should be called up in his place: Lee Kang In, Goh Young Joon, or Hong Hyun Seok.
Last time we had Oh Hyeon Gyu, Cho Gue Sung, and Hwang Ui Jo. OHG is the obvious starter with a respectable 7 goals in his half-season with Celtic. But I would be disappointed if we got these three, mostly because of the TERRIBLE form that CGS and HUJ have been in.
HUJ has been the worst of the 3 in terms of recent form – last goal was in April and every time I watch Seoul he just frustrates me so much. Decent hold up play but atrocious in front of goal recently. I wonder if he’ll ever find that 2020-2022 season form ever again.
CGS likewise has been awful and has been left out of Jeonbuk’s starting lineup recently. He did score a diving header last night though. In front of Klinsmann. Klinsmann’s probably gonna call him up for sure.
A more deserving call up – someone who has been deserving for the past 3-4 years – is Joo Min Kyu. For years despite being the K League’s top scorer he could never get called up to the KNT. This season he looks to repeat his feat last season. It would be pretty criminal to leave out Joo Min Kyu for either CGS or HUJ.
That’s it for today, but when the final roster does come out we will post the update and see how we fared.
Final roster adhering to the 3+8+11+3 = 25-man roster like we did in our March friendlies:
GK: Jo Hyun Woo, Kim Seung Gyu, Song Beom Keun
DF: Park Ji Soo, Kwon Kyung Won, Lee Han Beom, either Jeong Tae Wook or Jung Seung Hyun, Kim Jin Su, Seol Yong Woo, Kim Tae Hwan, Lee Ki Je
MF: Hwang In Beom, Jung Woo Young, Son Heung Min, Lee Jae Sung, Hwang Hee Chan, Na Sang Ho, Song Min Kyu, Jeong Woo Young, either Lee Kang In Goh Young Joon or Hong Hyun Seok, and two of the following three: Lee Jin Hyeon, Park Yong Woo, and Paik Seung Ho
FW: Oh Hyun Gyu, Joo Min Kyu, Cho Gue Sung