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scouting

K League player contributions at 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar

The number of K League players that made up South Korea's starting lineups at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar was below average but four goals scored from a total of five is the most ever.
Photo by JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images

Before the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar we know that, on average, there have been 14.66 K League players named in the squads of the previous nine World Cups for Korea. 

We also knew that 60% of starters had been K League players, on average, over the previous nine World Cups, and 60% of substitutes made were K League players coming on. 

But how did the 2022 World Cup compare?

vs. Uruguay, 0-0

Four K League players were in the starting lineup, namely Kim Young-gwon, Kim Jin-su, Kim Moon-hwan, and Na Sang-ho to make up 36% of the total. Of the three subs made, one was a K League player - Cho Gue-sung on for Hwang Ui-jo in the 74th minute. That makes it 33%.

vs. Ghana, 2-3

In the second group stage match, the 3-2 loss to Ghana, the same three defenders started but in came Gimcheon's Kwon Chang-hoon and Jeonbuk's Cho Gue-sung to make it five (45%). This time four subs were made but only one was a K League player (25%), that being Na Sang-ho on for Jeong Woo-yeong at halftime.

vs. Portugal, 2-1

In the 2-1 win over Portugal that sealed Korea's place in the Round of 16, four K League players started (36%) - the three Kims at the back plus Cho Gue-sung up top. As was the case versus Ghana, four subs were made and only one was a K League player (25%) - Cho Yu-min on for his namesake Gue-sung in the 93rd minute to see the game out.

vs. Brazil, 1-4

The less said about the Brazi match the better but four K League players started (36%) - the same four who Bento picked against Portugal. In this game, however, Bento made five subs with two K League players coming on (40%) - Hong Chul at left back and the scorer of Korea's only goal against Brazil, Paik Seung-ho.


FNR

Summary

An average of 38.25% of starters being K League players is well below the 60% average. It's around the same as 2010 when Korea last made it to the Round of 16 and is higher than 2014 (15%) and less than Russia 2018 (51%)

As for substitutions, 30.75% is also well below the 60% average and is the lowest ever.

In terms of goals, though, a K League player found the net in every match that South Korea scored in and four were scored in total from five overall for 80%. This is the second-best in South Korea's World Cup history but for World Cups where the Taeguk Warriors scored more than once is actually the best. 

USA '94 was the previous best with three goals scored by K League players to make 75% of the total.

[READ: South Korea's Top K League Performers at 2022 World Cup]

What else happened with K Leaguers at the 2022 World Cup?

Cho Gue-sung made history by becoming the first South Korean to score two goals in a single World Cup match and the first Asian player to score two headers in a single World Cup match. 

He also became an overnight sensation on social media and on the pitch with his Instagram follower count jumping exponentially by 100 times or more since the start of the tournament. According to reports, he is also attracting interest from European clubs.

Kim Young-gwon reached 100 caps in the 4-1 loss to Brazil.

Meanwhile, Cho Yu-min became the first Daejeon Citizen player, Hana era or otherwise, to play in a World Cup with his cameo off the bench against Portugal.

Read further

  • Analysis of South Korea's 2022 World Cup Group Stage (Patreon)
  • Every one of South Korea's K League Players at World Cups 1986-2018 (Patreon)
  • Analysis of South Korea's World Cup Squad (Patreon)
  • Could North Korea host a World Cup? (Patreon)
  • Refined in K League: 2022 FIFA World Cup Semifinalist Mislav Oršić (here)


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