Like Son Heung-min four years ago…join at the latest ‘Omae Bulmang’ AG loses three in a row, ‘Golden Boy’ Lee Kang-in on left foot
It’s no exaggeration to say that South Korea’s quest for a third consecutive Asian Games title could rest on the left foot of “Golden Boy” Lee Kang-in (Paris Saint-Germain).
Hwang Sun-hong’s men’s national team will take on Kuwait at 8 p.m. on Aug. 19 at Jinhua Stadium in Zhejiang, China, in their first group game of the Hangzhou Asian Games. The team will face Kuwait, Bahrain, and Thailand in Group E. The four best-placed nations from each group will advance to the round of 16.
The ‘youngest brother’ Lee Kang-in is a key resource for the team. He played a revolutionary role in South Korea’s runner-up finish at the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup, helped them reach the round of 16 at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and boosted his stock by signing for Paris Saint-Germain in the summer transfer window.
Born in 2001, Lee Kang-in is two to three years younger than the 1998-1999 Asian Games squad. However, he is an exceptional talent. He is a great resource for dribbling off the dribble, as well as for side-to-side transitions and forward passes. Teams facing South Korea at the Asian Games are likely to play a tight defense. This is where Lee’s creative passing, as well as his one-on-one breakthroughs, will be essential.
However, Lee’s arrival to the national team will be a little late. When Lee signed his contract with Paris Saint-Germain in July, he reportedly included a clause that required him to play in the Asian Games. He recently returned to training with the team after recovering from a thigh injury and is expected to make his return in the fifth round of the French Ligue 1 against Nice on Saturday. At worst, he could miss the group stage. He also faces the challenge of a long flight and jet lag. Senior Son Heung-min (Tottenham) was one of the last to join the Korean team at the Asian Games four years ago, but he was part of the team that won the gold medal. 메이저놀이터
Hwang has called up defender Park Jin-seop, midfielder Baek Seung-ho (formerly of Jeonbuk Hyundai) and flanker Seol Young-woo (Ulsan Hyundai) as wildcards. The team has plenty of second-line options, including Lee Kang-in, Uhm Won-sang (Ulsan), Jung Woo-young (Stuttgart) and Cho Young-wook (Gimcheon Commerce).
There is another mountain to climb. The team originally wanted to arrive a week before the first game. Hwang personally inspected the training grounds. However, the Asian Games Organizing Committee instructed participating countries to arrive three days before the first game. This means that the team will have to overcome the challenge of getting on the field before they can even get acclimatized.
Japan fielded a team of university players for the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Games, and once again, they are focusing on next year’s Under-23 Asian Cup rather than the Asian Games. Uzbekistan and Middle Eastern powerhouse Saudi Arabia, both of whom are strong in the U-23 age group, will be among Hwang’s targets.
Colleen Bell’s women’s soccer team will also depart for China on Sept. 19. The team will be looking to salvage some pride after being eliminated in the group stage of the Australia-New Zealand Women’s World Cup, which concluded last month with a 1-1 draw and two losses. They will begin their medal hunt on Feb. 22 against Myanmar at the Yunzhou Sports Center Stadium in Yunzhou, Zhejiang Province, China. They are paired with the Philippines and Hong Kong.
Overseas players Lee Kum-min (Brighton) and Lee Young-joo (Madrid CFF) have been excluded, as well as Cho So-hyun, who is without a club. Ji So-yeon (Suwon FC) and Lee Min-ah (Hyundai Steel) have returned from injury.
The women’s team had to settle for three consecutive bronze medals from Guangzhou 2010 to Jakarta-Palembang 2018. The women’s team has yet to win a gold medal at an Asian Games. However, if they finish top of their group, they will have to accept the draw of facing arch-rivals Japan in the quarterfinals.