Without Lee Kang-in, the tournament’s strongest second-place finish… Asian Games national team, find the best combination

The biggest star in men’s soccer at the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games is undoubtedly South Korea’s Lee Kang-in. But even without him, the attacking second line is formidable.

South Korea opens its group stage on Sept. 19 against Kuwait. Lee Kang-in, a key resource, is scheduled to arrive in China on the 21st after playing for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). Lee will be unavailable for the Kuwait game and the Thailand game on the 21st.

Even without Lee, South Korea’s second line is strong. Jung Woo-young is a starter for Stuttgart in the German Bundesliga, while Cho Young-wook and Ko Young-joon have shown good form in the K League recently. Song Min-kyu and Uhm Won-sang already have plenty of experience with the A team. Coach Hwang Sun-hong traveled to China with a double squad, selecting a total of six second-stringers, including Lee Kang-in. In past Asian Games, the squad size was small and some positions lacked depth, but this time, with 22 players selected, almost every position is close to a double squad.스포츠토토

In terms of K League competitiveness, A team experience, and European exposure, Korea’s second line is actually its strongest position, even without Lee Kang-in. However, there are a lot of variables in other positions. Strikers Park Jae-yong and Ahn Jae-joon have both been competitive in K League 2 until recently, but not at the level of K League 1 or the A team. The central midfield has plenty of resources, including wildcard Baek Seung-ho, Jung Ho-yeon, who was a key part of K League 1’s Gwangju FC surge this season, and Europeans Hong Hyun-seok, but Hwang has yet to find a solid front three.

Without Lee Kang-in, the team needs to have a well-defined plan in place to minimize the risk of a rushed addition. Lee is fresh off an injury. He’s likely to travel to China after playing just one game for PSG, and while he hasn’t been out long enough to lose all of his experience, he hasn’t had the chance to play alongside his Asian Games teammates.

If the team falters badly without Lee, it could be a vicious cycle of rushing him in, exposing his fitness and breathing issues, and causing a further decline in performance. Give Lee time to improve his fitness and breathing, even if it’s just for a few days.

He’s a playmaker, not a one-man wrecking crew, so it’s also important that the players receiving his passes are fit. The easiest scenario to envision is a sacrificial play from the likes of Park Jae-yong, a combative striker up front, with Lee providing the passes, and the secondary strikers of Cho Young-wook, Ko Young-joon, and Song Min-gyu scoring the goals. If the team is organized in advance with teammates who have proven their decisiveness and breakthrough ability in Lee’s absence, it will be easier to find combinations later.

There was a time when Korea’s men’s soccer team had a particularly weak showing at the Asian Games, failing to win six times since the 1990 edition. But after winning back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2018, expectations are higher than ever. In addition, the 2018 winners, Kim Min-jae and Hwang In-beom, took advantage of their military service benefits to challenge Europe, proving to be a great addition to the A team. This time around, it’s more like a super team with the goal of winning gold. They will need to prove their power in Lee Kang-in’s absence.

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