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Korean National Team Preview: Team Bento vs Team Kim Hak-Bum

After almost a year without a game, the South Korean national team are back in action this international break. Well, kind of. National team head coach Paulo Bento’s team of domestically-based players will take on Kim Hak-bum’s under-23 side for two behind-closed-door friendlies in Goyang. K League United's Korea National Team writer Steve Price has the details. (Image via The-AFC.com)

With travel restricted, South Korea were unable to arrange regular matches for the October international break. Instead, the senior national team will play two friendlies against the under-23s. Dubbed "Team Bento vs Team Kim Hak-bum", these two matches will be decided by the aggregate score, with away goals applying in case of a tie, although in reality, both teams are playing at home.

These matches were supposed to take place in the September international break but were postponed until now. Due to travel restrictions, Bento has been unable to pick players based overseas, and due to the opposition being the under-23s, he has been prevented from picking any more than three under-23 players. 

But given the length of time since the last game, it is still a good chance for Bento to work with the national team players on the training ground and get to know a few new faces. For Kim Hak-bum, who also could only pick domestic players, this gives him a good chance to hone his gameplan ahead of next summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

Last Time Out

Both managers won gold medals in their previous matches, with the senior side winning the 2019 EAFF E-1 Football Championship in Busan last December and the under-23s winning the AFC U-23 Championship in Thailand this January.

After a slow start against Hong Kong and China, South Korea impressed in their final match of the EAFF East Asian Cup against Japan, attacking with intent and moving the ball around quickly. They won the tournament without conceding a single goal, beating Hong Kong and Japan 1-0 and China 2-0.

That gives them 7 clean sheets in their last 8 games (the only team to score past them in that time was Brazil), but the problems lie at the other end of the pitch, with South Korea failing to score in their World Cup qualifiers away to Lebanon and North Korea.

Embed from Getty Images

The under-23s were last in action in January when they secured their place in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by winning the AFC U-23 Championship. 

They were drawn in a tough group with China, Iran and Uzbekistan, and relied on Lee Dong-jun scoring with the last kick of the game to get three points from their opener against China. They went on to beat both Iran and Uzbekistan to win the group, before again relying on a last minute goal, this time by Lee Dong-gyeong, to get past Jordan in the quarterfinals. 

The under-23s saved their best performance of the tournament for the semi-final against Australia, which they won 2-0 to secure their Olympic spot. The final against Saudi Arabia was a tighter affair, going to extra time before Jeong Tae-wook scored the only goal of the game to win the tournament for South Korea. That win gives Kim Hak-bum his second gold medal in as many tournaments after winning the Asian Games in Indonesia back in 2018.

Team News

Paulo Bento will be using these matches to try out some new options at the back. Twelve of his squad for these matches played at the East Asian Cup, but few of those players are defenders. Five players could make their senior debut in these games, including Gangwon’s Kim Yeong-bin and Kim Ji-hyun, and Han Seung-gyu who has been one of the few bright sparks in FC Seoul’s miserable season during his loan spell from Jeonbuk. 

Bento was allowed to pick three under-23 players, although he had planned to pick more. In the end, he called up Ulsan’s Won Du-jae, who won Player of the Tournament in Thailand back in January, and Lee Dong-gyeong, who made his senior debut against Georgia back in September 2019, as well as Busan’s Lee Dong-jun. Ulsan’s Lee Chung-yong was in the initial squad, but has been replaced by Gangwon’s Lee Hyun-sik due to injury.

Kim Hak-bum has basically picked the same squad that won gold in Thailand, apart from the players who are unavailable due to playing overseas or being called up to the senior side. Some of the new faces in his under-23 side include Gangwon goalkeeper Lee Kwang-yeon, who was part of the under-20 squad that won silver at the 2019 U-20 World Cup in Poland, FC Seoul’s Han Chan-hee and Cho Young-wook, and Pohang’s Song Min-gyu, who is the K League’s joint-top Korean goalscorer this season.

[Listen: Team Bento Vs. Team Kim Hak-bum Preview]


Squad Lists

Senior team (Team Bento)

Goalkeepers: Cho Hyun-woo (Ulsan Hyundai), Gu Sung-yun (Daegu FC), Lee Chang-geun (Sangju Sangmu)

Defenders: Jeong Seung-hyun (Ulsan Hyundai), Kwon Kyung-won (Sangju Sangmu), Kim Young-bin (Gangwon), Won Du-jae (Ulsan Hyundai), Lee Ju-young (Jeonbuk Motors), Hong Chul (Ulsan Hyundai), Kim Tae-hwan (Ulsan Hyundai), Kim Moon-hwan (Busan I-Park)

Midfield: Son Jun-ho (Jeonbuk Motors), Lee Young-jae (Gangwon), Ju Se-jong (FC Seoul), Han Seung-gyu ( FC Seoul), Yoon Bit-garam (Ulsan Hyundai), Lee Dong-gyeong (Ulsan Hyundai), Lee Hyun-sik (Gangwon), Kim In-sung (Ulsan Hyundai), Lee Dong-jun (Busan I-Park), Na Sang-ho (Seongnam)

Forwards: Lee Jeong-hyeop (Busan IPark), Kim Ji-hyun (Gangwon)


Under-23s (Team Kim Hak-bum)

Goalkeepers: Song Bum-geun (Jeonbuk Motors), Ahn Chan-gi (Suwon Bluewings), Lee Gwang-yeon (Gangwon)

Defenders: Kang Yun-sung (Jeju United), Kim Jae-woo (Daegu), Kim Jin-ya (FC Seoul), Kim Tae-hyeon (Seoul E-Land FC), Yun Jong-gyu (FC Seoul), Lee Sang-min (Seoul E-Land), Lee Yu-hyeon (Jeonnam Dragons), Jeong Tae-wook (Daegu)

Midfield: Kim Dong-hyun (Seongnam), Maeng Seong-woong (Anyang), Lee Seung-mo (Pohang Steelers), Jeong Seung-won (Daegu), Han Jeong-woo (Suwon FC), Han Chan-hee (FC Seoul)

Forwards: Kim Dae-won, (Daegu), Song Min-gyu (Pohang Steelers), Eom Won-sang (Gwangju), Oh Se-hoon (Sangju Sangmu), Cho Kyu-sung (Jeonbuk Hyundai), Cho Young-wook (FC Seoul)


“Team Bento” take on “Team Kim Hak-bum” in Goyang at 8PM on Friday 9th October and Monday 12th October.

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