Can Kim rise as new striker for Korea?

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Can Kim rise as new striker for Korea?

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Kim Jung-woo

After a six-month absence, Kim Jung-woo is returning to action with the Korean men’s national football team. The 29-year-old was included in the 27-man squad for the upcoming friendly against Honduras, tomorrow. This time, however, he is expected to start as a forward, not as a defensive midfielder, his usual position on the national team.

When announcing the squad at a press conference last Tuesday, head coach Cho Kwang-rae told Ilgan Sports he will test Kim as a forward who will play behind the main strikers, such as AS Monaco striker Park Chu-young and Chunnam Dragons prodigy Ji Dong-won.

Cho has reason to believe Kim can play up front. He is currently playing for the Sangju Sangmu Phoenix military team for his two-year mandatory military service and is currently the K-League’s top scorer, along with Daejeon Citizen striker Qerino da Silva Wagner, having netted four goals in three games.

Kim has experience playing as a striker at youth level but has transformed himself into a lethal goal scorer this season. Kim had only scored 14 goals in 168 K-League games from his debut in 2003 through last season. At the international level, Kim has scored four goals in 60 matches.

Cho’s strategy to play Kim as a striker is not a huge surprise. The coach has already had success converting a midfielder to a forward. In this year’s Asian Cup, Cho used 22-year-old midfielder Koo Ja-cheol as a forward, turning him into the competition’s top scorer with five goals. Thanks to his performance, the former Jeju United player moved to the German league’s VfL Wolfsburg.

Cho didn’t include Koo in the squad because he thinks he needs time to adjust with his new club. So instead, he selected Kim to fill Koo’s boots, hoping to rekindle the team’s success at the Asian Cup, where Korea finished third.

Kim’s positional change also spurs competition between strikers. Six of the 27 men in the squad are listed as forwards and even though Cho announced his plan to use Kim as a forward behind the team’s top strikers, other players are worried Kim could take one of their positions.

“I really hope Kim plays behind the strikers,” Ji Dong-won said to the JoongAng Ilbo. “If Kim plays at the top, he will have to compete against me, right?”

Competition between players could also happen in midfield too as Kim expressed interest in playing his natural position, as a defensive midfielder.

“I am not actually confident in the attacking position,” Kim told the JoongAng Ilbo. “I want to give my best performance at my best position.”

While Kim was absent from the Asian Cup because of an ankle injury, Lee Yong-rae, a midfielder from the Suwon Samsung Bluewings, took over on the national team. The 25-year-old showed off some energetic moves on the pitch along with Ki Sung-yueng of Scotland’s Celtic FC.

If Kim gets to play in his favored position, defensive midfielder, a clash in styles between Lee and Kim will be inevitable. Although their main role in midfield is to support team playmaker Ki they could have trouble carrying out the task.

Kim has a great eye for the ball and is an accurate passer, while Lee is a great tackler. Kim does have a sizeable advantage in international experience having played 52 more games on the national team than Lee.

Cho said that the game against Honduras will be the last opportunity for the K-League players to show their talent. But for Kim, it could be more difficult than others because he needs to prepare for both possibilities: showing his goal scoring ability and defending his old position.


By Kim Min-kyu, Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]


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