Cho Hyun-woo (32)안전놀이터 and Kim Young-kwon (33-plus Ulsan Hyundai) are on shaky ground with the South Korean national soccer team. Choi’s position as a goalkeeper has become uncontested, and Kim is under threat as a partner to Kim Min-jae (Bayern Munich). After missing both of the September A matches, the focus will be on the October A match to see if they can turn things around.
Cho Hyun-woo has been on the bench for four consecutive A matches since March against Uruguay. Jürgen Klinsmann (GER) alternated between Kim Seung-kyu (Al Shabab) and Cho Hyun-woo in March, but in the June and September trials, he kept Kim in goal for all four matches. With Klinsmann’s arrival, the goalkeeping competition seemed to be back to square one, but it appears that Kim has won the starting job outright.
The competition between Cho Hyun-woo and Kim Seung-gyu for the starting goalkeeper position has been fierce since Shin Tae-yong’s time. While Cho Hyun-woo’s performance at the World Cup in Russia seemed to establish him as the new gatekeeper, over the next four years under Bento, Kim Seung-gyu became the starter at major tournaments such as the Asian Cup and the World Cup in Qatar. In the process, managers have at least evened out the playing time and sparked competition. This is not only the case in Korea, but in other countries as well, but it is a different story with Klinsmann.
For Hyun-woo Choi, it’s a matter of pride. Last month, he accompanied the national team on a trip to Europe and returned home to the national team without spending a single minute on the field. He was supposed to be competing for a starting spot with a new coach, but he hasn’t even been given a chance. If he doesn’t turn things around during the October trials, he’ll have to settle for a backup goalkeeper role throughout Klinsmann’s tenure.
Kim Young-kwon’s time at the World Cup in Qatar is also coming to an end. Of course, given his age (he was born in 1990), there have been talks of gradually finding a new partner for Kim Min-jae in the post, but he was quickly relegated to the bench for the two European matches last month. In March, Kim started both games alongside Kim Min-jae, but he was injured in June and missed two consecutive games in September.
Kim’s absence has been filled by teammate Jung Seung-hyun. Under Bento, the left-footed Kim was on the left side of the central defense and the right-footed Kim Min-jae was on the right side, but Klinsmann has opted to play Kim on the left and Jung Seung-hyun on the right. Jung Seung-hyun started both games in June, when Kim Young-kwon and Kim Min-jae were out, and has been trusted by Klinsmann through September. He has started the last four A matches in a row. In the process, Kim Young-kwon’s spot seems to be narrowing.
While it’s true that he hasn’t been getting consistent chances for his club lately and his form has been questionable, he’s not a big consideration for Klinsmann, who doesn’t pay much attention to the K League. With two consecutive clean sheets in September, it’s likely that the Kim Min-jae-Jung-Seung-hyun combination will be the first choice for the October A match. Moreover, as the younger center backs, including the Europeans, gradually establish themselves, Kim will likely find his way into the starting lineup.
South Korea national football team coach Klinsmann watches his players during a training session at the National Training Center (NFC) in Paju, Gyeonggi-do, on the afternoon of Nov. 11. The national soccer team, led by Klinsmann, will play two exhibition matches against Tunisia and Vietnam on Nov. 13 and 17, respectively.
Given the current situation, the two October exhibition matches against Tunisia on Oct. 13 and Vietnam on Oct. 17 will be important for both Cho Hyun-woo and Kim Young-kwon. Coach Klinsmann has already said that there are about eight to 10 players who will form the backbone of the national team, and if they don’t get a chance to play in October after last month, it will be confirmed that they have completely lost the competition for a starting spot.
If this is the result of fierce competition, it must be frustrating for both Choi Hyun-woo and Kim Young-kwon to realize that they haven’t even been given a chance since March. This is especially true given that Klinsmann has been in charge for seven months and there should have been endless competition. It’s not good for the national team or the players to feel like the competition is already gone.