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Column: Yang Hanbin Deserves KNT Call Up

Yang Hanbin Deserves Korean National Team Call Up
FC Seoul goalkeeper Yang Hanbin deserves national team recognition and it is only a matter of time before new Korean National Team manager Paulo Bento becomes aware of what he can bring to the squad.
(Image via K League)
Friday 7th September 2018 saw the beginning of a new era for the Korean National Team, the first game under the stewardship of newly appointed Head Coach Paulo Bento. A 2-0 win over Costa Rica in Goyang got Bento off to the perfect start.

But it will have been a whirlwind couple of weeks for Bento, the former Portugal boss hadn't long been in the country before being tasked with getting to know his national pool with friendly games coming up just over a fortnight after landing at Incheon International Airport. The first match which Bento took in was FC Seoul's 1-0 home defeat to Pohang Steelers at Seoul World Cup Stadium on 22nd August, just hours after meeting the Korean media for the first time.

FC Seoul have had a handful of players on the fringes of the Korean National Team such as Go Yohan and Ju Sejong (currently with Asan Mugunghwa), who both went to the World Cup, whilst Kwak Taehwi featured heavily during the earlier stages of the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.

The likes of Cho Youngwook and Yoon Seungwon have represented Korea at youth level, whilst left-back Yun Sukyoung's loan move from Kashiwa Reysol seems to have been enough to earn him a spot back in the national team fold.

But one player in particular who will have been hoping to catch the eye of the 49 year-old is FC Seoul custodian, Yang Hanbin. The Busan-born stopper has been ever present for FC Seoul this season, keeping eight cleansheets in the process and has been one of the main reasons why FC Seoul's season isn't going as poorly as it perhaps could be.

However, Yang Hanbin's name was conspicuous by its absence when the KFA announced the squad for the friendlies with Costa Rica and Chile. Of course, after his World Cup heroics, Daegu FC's Cho Hyunwoo kept his place but was forced to pull out due to injury. Jeonbuk Hyundai's Song Beomkeun was brought in instead having been part of the Asian Games squad which won gold. Song has established himself as the current Champions' number one on merit, and is an excellent goalkeeper, but one can't help but think that Yang Hanbin should have been called up, perhaps instead of Cerezo Osaka's Kim Jinhyun.

It's been tough for the Sangam faithful over these last couple of seasons, watching their team go from title winners in 2016 to, potentially, in danger of not even making the Championship Round of the split this year and another season without ACL football. However, one glimmer of hope, one shining light in what has been a constant throughout turbulent and gloom-filled 18 months is the emergence of custodian Yang Hanbin.

At the beginning of the 2017 season, after first choice goalkeeper Yoo Sanghoon had left for Sangju Sangmu as part of his mandatory military service, former Incheon United goalkeeper Yoo Hyun was tasked with being FC Seoul's number one. However, after some rather erratic and downright calamitous displays in between the sticks for then-Hwang Sunhong's team, a relatively unknown goalkeeper by the name of Yang Hanbin was drafted in instead.

Yang's calming presence was noticeable immediately and helped to shore up a defense that had shipped 10 goals from the first five matches in all competitions. Since his debut on 19th March 2017 during a 2-1 home win over Gwangju, Yang Hanbin went on to make another 26 appearances last year and kept nine cleansheets.

Since then, Yang has made another 27 appearances this season and has already made eight cleansheets having been a mainstay in the FC Seoul team. Whilst the team's troubles in front of goal have been all too apparent, Seoul gaffer Lee Eulyong will never have to worry about his goalkeeper as long as Yang Hanbin is around. From 165 shots on target this term, Yang and his back four have kept an impressive 80% of them out. Time and time again, Yang Hanbin has come to the rescue and it's of little surprise that has gone on to become a real fans' favourite and a key player.

But it's not just me who thinks so, either. Dejan Damjanovic, a former teammate of Yang Hanbin from their time together with FC Seoul, has often waxed lyrical about the 27 year-old. Whenever K League United met with up with the Montenegrin ace he was adamant that Yang Hanbin was one of, if not the best Korean goalkeeper, and was heading to Russia as part of Korea's World Cup squad because of the form he was in. Alas, Yang didn't make it to Russia, but it is surely only a matter of time before Yang Hanbin makes his full international debut.

Yang's shot-stopping ability is one of his main attributes, at times he has kept Seoul in games or certainly kept them competitive when their forward line hasn't. But, what is most impressive about a relatively young and inexperienced goalkeeper is his ability to organise a defense. Yang has booming voice and, standing at 6′3″ tall, is a towering presence. His confidence and organisational skills ensures that his back four are confident in knowing that, should the ball slip through, more often than not their goalkeeper will bail them out.

That's exactly what Yang Hanbin has done, especially this season and one can't help but wonder what the complexion of FC Seoul's season would look like if they hadn't have had Yang Hanbin to come to their rescue.

For now, it seems as though there is work still to be done in order to force his way into Paulo Bento's plans. But, the more K League games which Bento sees, the more obvious it will become that Yang Hanbin deserves a call up sooner rather than later.

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