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Senior Team to Face Olympic Squad During International Break


Paulo Bento and Kim Hak-bum have made their selections.  The senior national team and the U-23 squad will face off in a two-legged tie in Goyang with the first match on October 9th and the second on the 12th.  Ulsan Hyundai's Won Du-jae is among the senior call-ups while Eom Won-sang, who has had a very good season with Gwangju FC is one to watch for the younger selects.  KLU's Branko Belan delves into the details.

(Photo courtesy of the Korean Football Association)

Nine Selections for Ulsan, Four for Jeonbuk

A total of nine players were selected from current league leaders Ulsan Hyundai, while four were selected from Jeonbuk Hyundai, who are currently three points off the pace in K League 1 with three matches remaining in Final A.  The same two sides will also be facing off in the two-legged FA Cup final next month, so there is a lot at stake for both clubs.

There may be some consternation as to whether or not it will have an impact on the final month of the season, as, if the Ulsan players get more playing time during the international break, there is a greater chance they may pick up injuries, which would potentially affect Kim Do-hoon's lineup selections down the stretch as all of them are first team players.  Paulo Bento is likely well aware of the fact and will rotate accordingly over the course of the two matches that his senior national squad will play against Kim Hak-bum's U-23 side, but it is definitely something which cannot be overlooked.

Four Selections for Gangwon

A lot was expected from Gangwon at the beginning of the season, but they have been underwhelming and were resigned to Final B in K League 1.  Their slump in form had seen them pick up only two wins in the league since mid-July before the split, and there are now questions as to whether Kim Byung-soo will still have a job at the end of the season.

Nevertheless, four players from the club earned call-ups for the international break  Forward Kim Ji-hyun, midfielder Lee Yeong-jae and defender Kim Yeong-bin will play for Team Bento, while goalkeeper Lee Gwang-yeon was chosen for Team Kim Hak-bum.

Kim Ji-hyun has put up some very decent numbers in 2020, with seven goals and two assists in nineteen appearances at club level.  The 2019 K League 1 Rookie of the Year is a classic nine with a deft scoring touch in front of goal, as evidenced by his performance against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors at the end of August when he came on as a substitute in the second half and netted a brace within the final quarter of an hour to secure three points.  His minutes have been somewhat limited lately, but with Gangwon out of contention for significant football, one would think that he is an asset that is in need of being preserved for next season, regardless of who will be on the touchline.

At twenty-six years of age, there is a lot of upside with Lee Yeong-jae.  Coming over from Gyeongnam FC last summer on a free transfer, he has been used mostly as a substitute this year but has shown himself to be a presence in the center of midfield when given the opportunity.  There is no question that going up a division has meant a step up in quality of competition and overall play, but perhaps a good showing during his time on the national scene will give him a chance for more playing time as the season winds down.  He played full minutes in Gangwon's last match, a 2-1 home win over Seongnam FC.

Kim Yeong-bin has been a fixture in the center of Gangwon's defense this season, playing a full ninety minutes for the team on all but two occasions thus far.  He was, however, kept out of the squad for the first Final B match against Busan IPark, but Gangwon still managed to win in his absence.  His call-up to Team Bento is a reward for the hard work he has put in this season.  Being part of the atmosphere will surely benefit him, and if he does get playing time, that would be an added bonus.

Lee Gwang-yeon has slowly begun to establish himself as the number one 'keeper at the club, and with back-to-back wins currently under his belt, he will have a great deal of confidence guiding him.  It should be remembered that he is still only 21 years old, so there is a lot of room for growth.  But, if his recent performances are an indicator of what he will become as his career progresses, he is certainly on the right track.

Players in Focus

Won Du-jae (Team Bento)

Won Du-jae has had a fantastic season with Ulsan Hyundai, so it should not come as too much of a surprise that he was in fact given his first senior call-up for this occasion.  He was a key component of South Korea's AFC U-23 success in Thailand in January this year, and that has been followed by great success with his current club after making the move from J League 2 side Avispa Fukuoka.

Won Du-jae was named MVP of the AFC U-23 Championship in Thailand this year. Photo courtesy of the-afc.com.

Mainly a defensive midfielder, he is also capable of playing in the center of the park and as a defender on occasion as well, so it's that kind of versatility which could see him become a regular call for Bento in the future if things go well in his first go-round with the senior team.  

Since mid-July, he has made eleven full starts for Ulsan (the first two matches in Final A included), demonstrating how his importance to the club has increased exponentially as the season has progressed.  He covers his position well and has a good sense of the pitch, and is rarely out of position;  a smart footballer with a bright future ahead.

Eom Won-sang (Team Hak-bum)

The 21 year old right winger has blossomed this season, with six goals and two assists in eighteen league appearances before the split.  He also contributed a goal in Gwangju's 5-3 loss in the first match of Final A.  After some early season injury concerns, he has recovered fully and his performances have improved considerably.  Having the opportunity to play alongside the likes of Felipe and Willyan have also likely had a very positive impact on the player, who was another reason why South Korea had the success they did in Olympic qualifying earlier this year.

Eom Won-sang in action against Australia at the AFC U-23 Championship in Thailand. Photo courtesy of the-afc.com.

He is capable of scoring goals in bursts, as his brace against Incheon earlier in the season in a 3-1 win, and more recently against Jeonbuk Hyundai in a 3-3 draw shows.  His pace on the wing has been a constant problem for opposing defenders this year, and his knowledge of attacking spaces has made Gwangju a legitimate threat going forward against the majority of opponents in the division.  He has been a very reliable starter in 2020, and that spells great things moving forward for the young player.

New Faces and Returnees

One of the main reasons for Ulsan Hyundai's success this year has prompted a recall to the national team for Yoon Bit-garam, who last played with the senior side four years ago in friendly matches against Spain and the Czech Republic in June 2016.  He was on the bench in the 6-1 loss to Spain but got his name on the scoresheet with the first marker in a 2-1 win over the Czechs.  While not a primary goalscorer by any stretch, he is capable of scoring some big goals as he has done throughout his career and in 2020 as well.

Lee Dong-jun is not really a new face on the national scene, but he earned his first call to the senior national team for this international break.  He was instrumental in South Korea's run in Thailand in January and has recently been linked with a move to Europe.  There is speculation that Bento is trying to engineer a move for him to Portugal where he would be able to develop his game further by playing against stronger competition.  The feeling is that the national team manager sees big things for the current Busan IPark star in the future, at least for as long as he remains in charge of the Taeguk Warriors.

One of the new faces appearing for the first time for the Olympic squad will be Han Jeong-woo.  Currently playing for Suwon FC in K League 2, he is capable of occupying multiple positions in attack.  He has made fourteen appearances for the club, notching one goal and one assist over that span.  He also comes with the added bonus of having European cup experience, as he played the Europa League qualifiers with his previous club, Kairat Almaty last summer.

Lee Seung-mo is back with the U-23 team after a two year absence.  His career almost ended prematurely in November 2018 during a promotion playoff match against Daejeon Citizen when he broke his neck after falling awkwardly in a duel for a high ball in his defensive third.  He has since made a full recovery and has had a decent season with Pohang Steelers with two goals and two assists in limited minutes this season.  He was a member of the South Korean team which won at the Asian Games in Jakarta-Palembang in Indonesia two years ago.

A Word From the Managers

Bento is not overly concerned about any sort of pressure; he is hoping the players will just have fun.

"As a football coach, I have always had to deal with that kind of pressure, and that's part of my job.  I will handle all the pressure, and just hope the players have fun training and playing these matches," he said in a report filed by Yonhap.

Kim Hak-bum can look forward to international football for the first time in nine months. Photo courtesy of the Korean Football Association.

Kim is also very much looking forward to the matches between his side and the senior team.

"I feel alive again.  I think the players are also really excited to be here.  Our fans have been thirsting for national team action, and we'll give them something to cheer about.  I hope someone will step up and be the hero for our side.  Every one of these players is capable of that," the U-23 boss commented in the same report.

Team Bento vs Team Kim Hak-bum - Full Squads      

Team Bento

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

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

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

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

*Lee Hyun-sik replaces Lee Chung-yong of Ulsan Hyundai, who dropped out due to injury.

Team Kim Hak-bum

GK: Song Bum-geun (Jeonbuk Hyundai), Ahn Chan-gi (Suwon Samsung), Lee Gwang-yeon (Gangwon FC)

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

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

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

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