An “emergency” signal was detected for South Korea, which is aiming for the top of the 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup. Side defenders, who were considered weaknesses even before the tournament, encountered a reef of injury and warning. Jürgen Klinsmann (Germany) is expected to be put to the test.
Since taking the helm of Korea in March last year, Klinsmann has repeatedly emphasized continuity and established a similar list. Notably, there has been no significant change in the flanking defense, which has been cited as a weak point. The flanking defenders of the team consist of Lee Ki-je (32, Suwon), Kim Jin-soo (31, Jeonbuk), and Seol Young-woo (24, Ulsan) and Kim Tae-hwan (34, Jeonbuk). Ahn Hyun-beom (Jeonbuk Hyundai), Kang Sang-woo (Beijing Guoan), and Kim Moon-hwan (Alduhaile) were selected, but they failed to make the roster in the end.
The reason why there have been concerns about side defenders is because of their physical conditions. Seol Young-woo and Kim Tae-hwan, who won the Ulsan HD title last season, are in a better situation, but Lee Ki-je and Kim Jin-su have seen their performance decline due to poor performance and injury in their teams.
Kim Jin-soo left with a left calf muscle injury ahead of the first group E match of the AFC Asian Cup against Bahrain on the 15th. With the prospect of missing all group matches, the left-back of the national team remained only Lee Ki-je.
Lee Ki-je showed off his kicking power in an exhibition match against Iraq on the 6th to help him win 1-0, but he created a dizzying situation in the main match against Bahrain. He was shown a yellow card in the 28th minute of the first half as he tried to stop the opponent’s counterattack. In the second half, he committed a similar foul at the start and almost got sent off with accumulated warnings. Chinese referee Ma Ning, who pulled out his card throughout the first half, gave a sigh of relief as he went over generously this time.
However, since he was given a yellow card early on, active defense was difficult, which led to Bahrain’s equalizer. The second ball was deflected and directed to the opposing striker, but it was difficult for the Korean defense to actively throw itself away. Immediately after, Lee Ki-je was replaced by Kim Tae-hwan. This is interpreted as a judgment to prevent him from leaving the team. If Lee Ki-je receives a yellow card in the second group match against Jordan on the 20th, he cannot play in the third match. Moreover, the yellow card in this tournament will disappear only after reaching the semifinals. Meanwhile, Korea won 3-1 thanks to Lee Kang-in’s multi-goal performance.
Attention is focusing on Clinton
s future management of players. Since taking the helm, Clinton has been able to register up to 26 players at this years event. Nevertheless, he chose Yang Hyun-joon (Celtic), Park Jin-seop (Jeonbuk Hyundai) and Kim Ji-soo (Brentford) instead of reinforcing the defense line. Park Jin-seop can play as a defender, but just like Kim Ji-soo, he is situated in the center. Though he could have chosen the backup line enough, Clinton insisted on the existing four players at the defense line.
The next best option is to start Seol Young-woo and Kim Tae-hwan at the same time as in the second half of the match against Bahrain. However, in this case, the burden on Seol Young-woo increases. Another problem is that there are no suitable replacement resources. Kim Jin-soo’s return to health is the top priority, but if there are additional injuries in the meantime, the tournament will inevitably be difficult to manage.
The Asian Cup will be held every five days until the group stage and every three days from the tournament. This is why smart rotation is needed. Attention is focusing on what kind of appointment coach Klinsmann will make in the future.