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A Closer Look at South Korea's Preliminary World Cup Squad

South Korea head coach Shin Tae-yong has named his preliminary 28-man squad for the Russia 2018 World Cup. That number will get cut down to 23 before the tournament begins, but it is likely that the fringe players will get a chance to show what they can do against Honduras in Daegu on May 28, and against Bosnia and Herzegovina in Jeonju on June 1st. The squad will begin their World Cup training sessions in Paju on May 21st. 

Shin Tae-yong announced his preliminary World Cup squad on Monday. The 28-man squad will have to be cut down to 23 by June 4th, and with Shin Tae-yong previously saying that he already knows 80 to 90 percent of the names that will be on the plane to St. Petersburg, there aren’t likely to be many surprises in that final 23.

Goalkeepers

Kim Seung-gyu (Vissel Kobe), Kim Jin-hyeon (Cerezo Osaka), Cho Hyun-woo (Daegu FC)

The 3 goalkeepers are all set. Kim Seung-gyu is likely to be number one choice. Daegu's Cho Hyun-woo is the only K League representative between the sticks for Korea in Russia this summer. Consodole Sapporo's Gu Sung-yun is on standby in case one of the keepers picks up an injury.

Defenders

Kim Young-gwon (Guangzhou Evergrande), Jang Hyun-soo (FC Tokyo), Park Joo-ho (Ulsan Hyundai), Kim Jin-su (Jeonbuk Motors), Lee Yong (Jeonbuk Motors), Go Yo-han (FC Seoul), Kim Min-woo (Sangju Sangmu), Hong Chul (Sangju Sangmu), Yun Young-sun (Seongnam FC), Kwon Kyung-won (Tianjin Quanjian), Jung Seung-Hyun (Sagan Tosu), Oh Ban-suk (Jeju United)

In defense, the big question before the announcement was would Jeonbuk’s Kim Min-jae and Kim Jin-su recover from their injuries in time. According to Naver on Friday, Kim Jin-su was running whereas Kim Min-jae was still in a cast. Shin Tae-yong was carefully monitoring both players but it seems Kim Min-jae will be out for two months so will obviously miss the World Cup.

Kim Min-jae's absence leaves Korea with a hole in the center of defense. Some good news for the national team is that Kim Young-gwon, who only made four league appearances for Guangzhou Evergrande last season, has played five of the last six league games and all seven of this season's Champions’ League matches for the Chinese heavyweights.

Tianjin Quanjian’s Kwon Kyung-won has also been playing regularly this season, so Korea have some options when it comes to choosing Jang Hyun-soo’s defensive partner.

Jeju United’s Oh Ban-suk has been pretty consistent for the islanders over the past year so makes a sturdy, safe choice as a backup option. The rest of the defense gives Korea enough flexibility to play with a back-three or back-four, and gives Shin Tae-yong some options should Kim Jin-su not quite recover in time for the World Cup. Jeonbuk's Choi Chul-soon is also on the standby list.

Midfielders

Ki Sung-yueng (Swansea City), Lee Chung-yong (Crystal Palace), Koo Ja-cheol (Augsburg), Lee Jae-sung (Jeonbuk Motors), Jung Woo-young (Vissel Kobe), Kwon Chang-hoon (Dijon), Ju Se-jong (Asan Mugunghwa), Lee Seung-woo (Hellas Verona), Moon Seon-min (Incheon United)

In midfield, Lee Chung-yong gets a call-up despite barely featuring for Crystal Palace this season. He is undoubtedly a quality player, but there are question marks over whether he is a bit rusty from his time on the bench at Selhurst Park. Shin Tae-yong will likely give Lee Chung-yong plenty of minutes over the next two friendly matches to assess him before making a final decision on whether he goes to Russia.

Hellas Verona midfielder Lee Seung-woo gets a surprise call up, and may well make his national team debut in Jeonju or Daegu in the upcoming friendlies. He hasn’t looked bad during his limited time on the pitch for Verona, but the World Cup might have come a year too soon for him.

Incheon United’s Moon Seon-min is the other surprise call-up. Moon has six goals for Incheon United this year, and his pace and movement could give Korea another option in attack.

Son Jun-ho, Lee Chang-min, Lee Myung-joo, and Ji Dong-won are all on the standby list.

Forwards

Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur), Lee Geun-ho (Gangwon FC), Hwang Hee-chan (Red Bull Salzburg), Kim Shin-wook (Jeonbuk Motors)

The four forwards listed are Lee Geun-ho, Kim Shin-wook, Hwang Hee-chan, and of course Son Heung-min.

In an interview, Lee Geun-ho said Shin Tae-yong is likely to play two up front, with Son Heung-min’s partner being chosen based on the opposition. Each of the other three forwards offer something different for Shin Tae-yong to choose from.
Suk Hyun-jun has resurrected his career at Troyes but hasn't quite done enough to make the cut. He's on the standby list.

Key Dates

May 21st - Paju Training Camp Begins

May 28th - South Korea vs Honduras (in Daegu)

June 1st - South Korea vs Bosnia and Herzegovina (in Jeonju)

June 3rd - 23-man squad announced

June 7th - South Korea vs Bolivia (in Austria)

June 11th - South Korea vs Senegal (in Austria)

June 12th - South Korea arrive in St. Petersburg

June 18th - South Korea play first World Cup match against Sweden

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