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What Would a K-League Only Korean National Team Look Like?

Who will be picked in our Korean National Team made-up from only K-League players?  (Photo generated in Line Up 11 App)
Who will be picked in our Korean National Team made-up from only K-League players?
(Photo generated in Line Up 11 App)
With international week upon us, I thought it would be interesting to start something in regards to the Korean National team. The most recent team selection by Uli Stielike has obviously been picked with choosing the best South Koreans available to represent the country, and I would normally have no reason to argue my point any further.


However, as Korea have already qualified from their group making the qualifier pointless, as well as playing a friendly, I see this as a missed opportunity to either blood in youngsters from the U23 teams, or bring in players from the Korean domestic leagues. Choosing a total of five K-League players (two of them late call-ups) seems a bit unfair.

With the new TV deal broadcasting 60% of K-League games it seems there are genuine moves being made this year to try and garner some interest in the league domestically. There have also been two weekends in a row of record attendances. I therefore argue that now would have been the perfect time to include some of these players in the national squad and hopefully sustain some of the increased interest when the Classic league recommences in two weeks.

The original squad list. Jeonbuk Hyundai's Kim Chang-soo has since been called up to replace Gamba Osaka's Oh Jae-suk. Ju Se-jong has also been called up to replace Augsburg's Ji Dong-won. (Photo credit: The KFA)
It's worth mentioning that there is probably a lot of pressure to ensure the attendances at these games are as high as possible. Not many Korean supporters have the opportunity to view the European-based Koreans in the flesh, therefore two games in Korea, boasting the best players on offer from the likes of the Premier League and Bundesliga, must be seen as a great chance for the Korea fans as well as an enticing commodity for organisers.

I suppose that the final decision comes down to the Korean team's manager, and he no doubt mentions that having had a long winter break, he is best to select players who have been playing more games recently, although I do argue that their clubs would favour them not being risked in two meaningless games all the way over on Korean soil, especially during the final leg of the season.

However, using my own nominations and the joys of social media, I hope to offer an alternative, K-League only option to the KFA. One that I think would have done perfectly fine against the likes of Lebanon and Thailand this week.

Once compiled, our site's Incheon contributor Marc Guay is going to take this newly-assembled team and create a FIFA prediction post to simulate how well this side could do against varying levels of opposition.

Rules

The first and most obvious rule for this exercise is that the players selected must be South Korean, eligible for the South Korean team, and are currently playing in either the K-League Classic or Challenge leagues. As we are aiming to simulate this, any player in the starting eleven from the Challenge league may be replaced with another from the 23 man squad depending on their in-game availability.

Each poll will last 24 hours, seeing as not all our writers are currently Korea-based. It also gives anyone else the opportunity to cast their vote, regardless of time-zone. All polls contain a few nominees, but anyone not mentioned can be brought into consideration if you leave your own nomination either in reply to tweet or in the comment section below (providing the poll in question is still open).

I have made my nominations based on the K-League players currently in the national team, their previous national team experience, time in the U23 national side, playing time for their club in addition to our staff's season predictions and individual club previews. I have also taken into consideration the official pre-season predictions from both the managers and club captains.

Ultimately, I have tried to nominate a team that is not just competitive, but also with potential for the future. That said, you can overrule this through adding in your own selections. If there is a tie, I will attempt to make a reasonable final decision.

I am aiming to have this wrapped up by late Friday, so any nominations not made by the time the last poll finishes will not be considered.

Goalkeepers

This position was one of the main reasons why I decided to undertake this exercise. As many of you know, the K-League has strict rules on the number of foreign signings a team may have. However, it is not possible for one on these foreign signings to be played in goal. This kind of protectionism of one position on the field is not a good thing. If it is being forced on clubs to field a potentially weaker keeper than possibly available to them, this can lead to a team subsequently dropping crucial points. If they have to be Korean though, then surely these keepers must at least be considered for the national team. Instead, as demonstrated by Uli Stielike's recent team selection, the Republic of Korea side has opted for three keepers playing in both the Japanese first and second divisions.

Ultimately I believe in the strongest team being picked, wherever in the world they are playing, but if the KFA is enforcing strict keeper rules on the domestic leagues, then surely it would only be logical to require at least one of these keepers to be in the squad, otherwise what is the point in enforcing it?

Perhaps the K-League thinks that less competition amongst keepers will lead to more goals to be conceded and make the league more exciting for the neutral spectator.

In addition to this main point though, the K-League does have some very good goalkeepers. As a Jeonbuk follower (and I have tried my hardest to not be biased), it is difficult to understand why keeper Kwoun Sun-tae was completely passed over considering the amount of points he is worth alone to the reigning champions.

Below I have nominated three keepers, as chosen from the staff's season predictions, for your consideration:
Others Nominated: None stated.

Left Back

As with most of these, I had two players in mind (not always the first two either) but the search for a third option sometimes proved difficult. I have also made sure to try include any players predicted by the staff either in their predictions or in their individual season previews. I have left the option for "other" though and will list any players given in reply to the tweet below. Unless there's an overwhelming majority for either the one's chosen or another candidate, I will then reconsider my preferences based on the new shortlist.

Others Nominated: Choi Jae-soo (Pohang), Chung Woon (Jeju), Park Jin-po (Sangju)

Right Back

Uli Stielike has actually included a K-League player in his 23-man squad, Jeonbuk's Kim Chang-soo, although admittedly he was a late addition to the team. He naturally was included in this poll, along with two others who I felt had a useful amount of experience in the role through various competitions at club level and international level. Again, anyone else selected will come into reconsideration after the poll closes.

Others Nominated: Choi Hyo-jin (Jeonnam)

After a late swell of support, the outside vote of Jeonnam's Choi Hyo-jin steals the RB role from Jeonbuk's Kim Chang-soo. Ryan Walters will be happy.

Central Defence

Unfortunately Twitter does not let me put more than four options in a survey, I have chosen four nominees and any others should be done via reply to the tweet or in the comments below. Lim Chae-min had been selected as a potential defensive player of the year in our staff predictions
Others Nominated: Yoon Young-sun (Seongnam), Baek Dong-kyu (Jeju), Lee Kwang-seon (Jeju),

After many additional nominations, I decided to re-cast the second place centre-back Kim Won-sik alongside the new nominations.


After the re-vote, Kim Won-sik and new entry Yoon Young-sun were tied. Seeing as Kim Won-sik had finished a close second in the first poll, I have given him the benefit of the doubt and kept him in the starting eleven. Yoon Youn-sun makes the bench and the vacant spot is to be awarded to either of the Jeju defenders nominated. Of the two, I have opted for Lee Kwang-seon as he has featured for the full ninety minutes in both of Jeju's games so far this season, as well as having experience overseas (even if its partly the J2 league) and playing more regularly.

Central Midfield


This again is a difficult choice, and will be re-considering some of those who lose out again for the AM role because they are mostly attacking players. I have chosen four nominees again and any others should be done via reply to the tweet or in the comments below.
Others Nominated: Kim Do-hyuk (Incheon)

Attacking Left Wing

As with the wing backs, two will be selected for the 23 man squad, but the winner will find himself in the starting eleven. 

Others Nominated: Shim Dong-woon (Pohang)

Attacking Right Wing

Same voting format as for the attacking left-wing; the top two will make the squad, with first making the line-up for kick-off.
Others Nominated: None

Striker

While I've lambasted his attempts as a lone-front man, due to his overwhelming votes in the players and managers pre-season predictions, Jeonbuk's Kim Shin-wook is included in these nominees. It would also be hypocritical seeing as I had touted him for Jeonbuk's "Korean National Team Player to Watch".

I've also added in Hwang Ui-jo and Lee Jeong-hyeop who have already been called up to the actual Korean squad for these fixtures. The inclusion of Park Chu-yong is based on his promising return from injury and his gradually increasing role in a currently dominating FC Seoul side. If at full fitness, I feel he would be under consideration.

It pains me to leave out Lee Dong-gook as he is a personal favourite of mine as well as many other supporters. His legendary status in Korea did not go unnoticed when deciding these polls. However, I excluded him as, despite his unwavering form in front of the net, at 36 he is not really a player for the future.

To nominate a different striker, please leave a comment below, or reply directly to the tweet.
Others Nominated: None


Fortunately for Hwang Ui-jo, he received most of his support prior to starting in South Korea's game against Lebanon on Thursday night. After having a tricky time in front of goal, missing some easy chances, he was upstaged in the final minute by substitute Lee Jeong-hyeop who bagged the winner. Unfortunately for the Ulsan striker, he was too late to sway this survey in his favour.


Attacking Midfield


After much deliberation over the remaining position, and also in a bid to wrap this up quickly so it can move to the simulation stage, I have decided that it would be a shame to see one of the CM or ST nominees not make it into the starting line-up when they are capable of playing effectively in that position. Therefore, the two best candidates for AM already in the final squad are Lee Jae-sung and Park Cho-young.

But first, here’s the consequences of the final vote:

Lee Jae-sung:
Voting for Jeonbuk Hyundai’s Lee Jae-sung would move him from his central position into AM, with Kwon Chang-hoon from Suwon Bluewings taking the vacant CM position. Jeonbuk’s Kim Bo Kyung would then be moved up into the final 23 man squad.

Park Cho-young:
Voting for FC Seoul’s Park Cho-Young would move him from the substitute bench and into the starting line-up, leaving Lee Jae-sung in CM and calling up Ulsan’s Lee Jeong-hyup into the 23-man squad alongside the other two nominated strikers.

You may also vote “Other” but please reply with your choice. If there’s overwhelming support for another player, then the two players mentioned will stay in the positions you initially voted them for.


Others Nominated: None

Well that final poll was pretty conclusive. I still had space for any "other" options but there were none nominated. Therefore, Park Chu-young has been listed as the back-up the AM, with Lee Jeong-hyeop taking the vacated strikers spot.

Manager

Using our staff predictions, I also thought it would be interesting to see which K-League manager would be deemed suitable to oversee this team. I excluded Jeonbuk's Choi Kang-hee as he already has had a turn in charge and I doubt the Korean supporters will be demanding his reinstatement.

After making an absolute mess of the first poll, here is the second one:



Others Nominated: None

Final Results

After four days of consideration, additional nominations and online discussion, this is the final squad list and starting eleven for the "K-League Only" Republic of Korea.


The final 23 man Republic of Korea National squad, made up using only current K-League players and managed by Seongnam's Kim Hak-bum
The final 23 man Republic of Korea National squad, made up using only current K-League players and managed by Seongnam's Kim Hak-bum

The Starting Line Up for the Republic of Korea National squad, made up using only current K-League players and managed by Seongnam's Kim Hak-bum
The preferred starting line-up, as chosen by you. (Photo generate using the Line Up 11 app)

I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who took the time to vote in the polls and lend their valued opinions to the final selection. I really enjoyed making this particular post, even if it felt like I was spamming the K-League United twitter feed from time-to-time.

I will be handing these results over to Incheon contributor Marc Guay, who will go on to simulate some international matches using this team and post the results and highlights in due course.

If you disagree with the team, and I am sure some of you do, or you would like to offer your opinion on whether this team improves on anything within the current Korean squad, please leave a reply below. Discussion is very much encouraged.


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