A few weeks ago we talked about the club situation that allowed Valencia starlet Lee Kang-in to be available for the 2019 FIFA U20 World Cup in Poland. For Bayern Munich starlet Jeong Woo-young, the club situation is the exact opposite and it was announced this weekend that Bayern Munich have declined to make him available for the tournament. We’ll get into why this has happened, what it means for the young Taegeuk Warriors in Poland, and if this is good for Jeong’s future.
Bayern Munich’s Decision
The first thing to know about many tournaments that are important to the KFA is that they are not FIFA-mandated release tournaments. This means that a club is not obligated by FIFA to release their players to play. The Asian Games? Sonny had to get special permission from Spurs to play in it and the KFA had to give up 2 group stage Asian Cup matches (a FIFA-mandated release tournament) to secure his release. The 2016 Olympic football tournament? Sonny also had to get permission to play in that. The U20 World Cup? You guessed it. The KFA needed Bayern’s permission to add Jeong to the squad.
Steve Han got into why Jeong was not released for the tournament here. Jeong has actually been an instrumental part of the rise of Bayern Munich’s reserve team, Bayern Munich II, in the fourth division of German football. He will participate in a playoff with Wolfsburg II for the chance to join the 3.Bundesliga. Allowing the main reserve team a chance to compete at an even higher level is important for Bayern and they feel they need Jeong for the matches on May 21 and 25.
The KFA were hoping to see if they could negotiate a way for Jeong to join the squad in Poland late in a similar fashion to Sonny at the Asian Cup this past January. Unfortunately, Bayern didn’t agree to that.
What is the KFA’s Plan?
Interestingly, head coach Chung Jung-yong has opted not to call in a replacement forward for Jeong. He definitely had options available as Augsburg’s Cheon Seong-hoon is eligible for the tournament. Instead, he has called up Jeju United’s Lee Gyu-hyeok. Lee Gyu-hyeok was one of the last players cut for the squad and as I mentioned when I previewed the squad here, Lee is the left-back that formed a part of Chung’s back 4 at the AFC U19 Championship last fall. This represents a calculated gamble by Chung in that he lost a hugely influential forward and replaced him with a left-back. That being said, adding Lee Gyu-hyeok allows Chung to field the back four of Lee Gyu-hyeok, Kim Hyun-soo, Lee Jae-ik, and Hwang Tae-hyeon that got this squad to the finals of the AFC U19 Championship.
Chung is also betting that he has enough firepower in offense without Jeong. Hopefully, he is right. How’s the evidence that Chung has to work with? To be honest, pretty good. In the U19 Championship last fall, the Taegeuk Warriors got 5 goals from Jeon Se-jin and 4 goals from Cho Young-wook. Chung has to be hoping that with the added creativity and attention that Lee Kang-in will demand, those two can feast on unsuspecting defenses for more goals. Here’s hoping that happens.
What about Jeong’s KNT Career?
Honestly, this shouldn’t be any impediment to Jeong’s future with the KNT. The U20 World Cup is a showpiece youth event that is meant to help a player’s development. Jeong is already getting plenty of that at Bayern and could possibly be promoted to their first-team soon if he continues to impress with the reserves. Competing and performing well at the U20 World Cup wouldn’t be much different than what Jeong is doing at Bayern.
With the U20 World Cup now off the table, it could be an opportunity for Paulo Bento to give Jeong his first senior call-up. That would be a huge opportunity for Jeong and most likely would be better for his development than going to the U20 World Cup. With Son Heung-min most likely not joining the squad for the June friendlies against Australia and Iran (he is planning to complete his mandatory one-month military training), Jeong actually could have a real opportunity to feature for the Taegeuk Warriors off the bench or as a starter. Even the most intense fan of U20 World Cup football would have to admit this is a better environment for Jeong to be exposed to.
For the young Taegeuk Warriors in Poland, they have received some interesting news in the past few weeks. An unexpected freeze-out of the first team has made the most hyped Korean player ever, Lee Kang-in, suddenly available to lead the team. Now a rising Bayern player will have to drop out and two young K League players will be asked to step up and find the goals for the Taegeuk Warriors. The 2019 FIFA U20 World Cup Poland is just over a week away. Are you ready?