Jürgen Klinsmann’s men’s national team will face Peru and El Salvador in back-to-back A matches in June, but can they get the first win they’ve been hoping for? Injuries to their starting center backs have left the backline shaky, and the performance of their frontline options has been less than satisfactory.
National team left back Kim Young-kwon (33-Ulsan) injured his right hamstring during a K League match and is doubtful for the June A match. Kim Min-jae (27-Napoli) is also likely to miss the match due to military training to fulfill his special military service. Klinsmann will have to consider new defensive combinations.
“Kim Young-kwon was diagnosed with a muscle injury after a thorough examination,” an Ulsan Hyundai official told reporters on Tuesday, adding, “He has injured muscles in the past when he played for Gamba Osaka in the Japanese J-League, but it’s a different area and we don’t know how long it will take him to recover.”
Kim left the field in the first 20 minutes of Ulsan’s K League home game against Daejeon Hana Citizen at Munsu Soccer Stadium in Ulsan on Sept. 28 after complaining of pain in his right hamstring. Ulsan then conceded three goals in the first half to capitalize on Kim’s absence.
Even for Klinsmann, Kim’s absence is a concern. While the national team will have to consider generational changes, if they are only thinking about their short-term goal of winning the Asian Cup next year, Kim’s left-footed build-up play is irreplaceable for now.
“In the past, Jeong Seung-hyun (Ulsan) and Park Ji-soo (Portimonense) have filled the position, but they have exposed problems in terms of foul management,” said Kim Dae-gil, a sports commentator at Sports Tendency, adding that finding a new center back combination will be Klinsmann’s new task. “I think we’ll see a change at fullback as well, which could be unsettling if there’s a big change in the defense all at once,” Kim said.
The lack of quality up front will also be a concern for Klinsmann. Cho Kyu-sung (25-North), who came into the spotlight with a multi-goal performance against Ghana at the Qatar 2022 World Cup, hasn’t lived up to expectations. He scored just one 스포츠토토 goal in six games. That goal was a penalty kick (PK). He recovered from a thigh injury to play against the Pohang Steelers in the K League on Sept. 29, but was unable to add any offensive points and had to watch his team lose 0-1.
Hwang Eui-jo (31-Seoul) has been on a goal drought. In 14 matches, he has scored just two goals, including one PK. He hasn’t scored in more than a month since scoring in a home match against Suwon Samsung on April 22. While his link-up play based on stable ball possession has improved, it remains to be seen if he can catch the eye of Klinsmann, who prefers a more conventional, goal-scoring No. 9-style striker.
The good news is that Oh Hyun-kyu (22), who plays for Scottish giants Celtic, has been improving rapidly. He’s consistently coming off the bench and getting more playing time, including a multi-goal performance in the league final against Aberdeen on Nov. 27. In 20 official matches, including cup competitions, he has scored seven goals. In terms of minutes played, he scored at a rate of one goal every 81 minutes, meaning he scored more than one goal in every game.