Hwang In-beom thinks the Taeguk Warriors have what it takes
Korea heads into the latest run of Asian qualifiers for the 2022 Qatar World Cup sitting relatively comfortably in second place in Group A with two wins and two draws, having beaten Lebanon and Syria and drawn with Iraq and Iran.
A good part of that success comes thanks to midfielder Hwang In-beom, who scored against Syria and picked up a crucial assist against Iran.
The 25-year-old, who plays for Russian side Rubin Kazan, has now appeared in 27 international matches, all under head coach Paulo Bento. His goal against Syria was his fourth for the Korean squad.
In that match, it was right after the break that Hwang found the back of the net with his left foot from mid-range, opening the scoring in what would go on to be a 2-1 game.
“I am more confident with my left foot than my right in mid-range shots,” Hwang told the JoongAng Ilbo on Tuesday.
“In 2015, I had to undergo surgery on my right foot. So I am not completely comfortable with shooting with my right foot after sprinting at full speed. I’d rather use my left foot and make a more powerful shot.”
Hwang first started his professional football career with Daejeon Hana Citizen Football Club in 2009, where he played for seven years. After briefly joining Sangmu to fulfill his military service, Hwang appeared with the U-23 team at the 2018 Asian Games, winning a gold medal and earning a military exemption.
The first time Hwang joined the senior national team was in September that same year, when Korea faced Costa Rica. Just a month later, Hwang scored his first goal on Oct. 16 in a friendly against Panama, successfully converting an assist from Son Heung-min in the 2-0 victory.
From 2019 to 2020, Hwang went on to play abroad with the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Canadian league, where he scored three goals and six assists in 40 appearances, serving as a regular fixture for the club. He then transferred to the Russian Premier League club FC Rubin Kazan in 2020.
Currently the only Korean to play in the Russian Premier Liga, Hwang says playing abroad has its difficulties.
“I used to have to travel all the way to Orlando, Florida when I played for the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2019,” Hwang said. “It’s similar in Russia with Kazan in that I have to fly almost two hours to play away matches.”
Hwang, however, has been able to prove his skills despite it all, having been chosen as the player of the month in July and August.
The 25-year-old says that the fact that his fellow national team players of the same age like Hwang Hee-chan of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Kim Min-jae of Turkish team Fenerbahce are thriving abroad is what keeps him going.
“We act as a sort of stimulus to one another,” said Hwang In-beom. “We will be looking to win both our remaining qualifiers against the United Arab Emirates and Iraq.”
In the two upcoming World Cup qualifiers, Hwang In-beom will be joined by European stars Son, Kim, Hwang Hee-chan, Lee Jae-sung, Jung Woo-young and also by Suwon Samsung Bluewings forward Kim Gun-hee, who made the squad for the first time on Monday when Bento announced his lineup for the qualifiers.
Korea will face the United Arab Emirates on Nov. 11 at 8 p.m. at Goyang Stadium in Gyeonggi. They are then expected to fly to Iraq for the first game of the second leg of qualifiers on Nov. 16.
BY PARK RIN, YUN SO-HYANG [email@example.com]