Young squad heads to Wuhan
At the Korea Football Association (KFA) headquarters in Seoul on Monday, Stielike unveiled his 23-man roster for the East Asian Cup, which takes place next month in Wuhan, China. South Korea will starts its tourney with host China on Aug. 2 before taking on archrival Japan on Aug. 5 and North Korea on Aug. 9.
Since the event is organized by the East Asian Football Federation (EAFF) rather than the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), football clubs are not obligated to send their players to the national team. Therefore, it was widely expected that Stielike would form the squad solely with players based in East Asia.
In the 23-man squad, 18 were born in 1990 or later, making it the youngest team since Stielike took the job last September. The average age of the squad is 24.3, with the oldest player being goalkeeper Kim Jin-hyeon, 28.
Goalkeeper Gu Sung-yun of Consadole Sapporo and Lee Chan-dong of Gwangju FC were selected for the national team for the first time in their career, while five other players - Rim Chang-woo, Kim Min-hyeok, Lee Jong-ho, Kim Seung-dae and Kwon Chang-hoon - had been previously picked for the team but had never played an international match.
Guangzhou Evergrande defender Kim Young-gwon is the most experienced player on the squad, playing 35 international matches.
Among the veterans, Kim Shin-wook, 27, has returned to the national team for the first time in 14 months. The 196-centimeter (6-foot-5) striker, who will be playing for the first time with Stielike, broke his right tibia during the Incheon Asian Games last September and hadn’t been tapped for the national team until this week.
Kim currently has eight goals in 22 matches in the K-League Classic. On the national team, he has scored three times in 29 matches.
“We’ve watched him closely lately and his fitness level wasn’t a concern,” said the 60-year-old German.
Along with Kim, Sangju Sangmu striker Lee Jeong-hyeop was also selected as the forward. However, Joo Min-kyu, who is the leading scorer in the second division K-League Challenge with 16 goals in 20 games, was omitted.
“We have to think more whether Lee or Kim should play together or how to play together on the pitch,” Stielike said.
The former Ivory Coast coach hinted that he will experiment with the offensive lineup during the East Asian Cup. Lee Yong-jae, Lee Jong-ho and Kim Seung-dae, who were all classified as forwards in the 50-man preliminary list, have been named as midfielders.
“I have thought about whether we should use fullbacks or forwards for attacking flanks, but I decided to go with the latter,” Stielike said. “The point is whether these players can also perform defensively as well, but I first want to use their attacking ability on flanks.”
The squad will depart for China on July 31.
BY JOO KYUNG-DON [firstname.lastname@example.org]