7 new faces join S. Korea for World Cup qualifying matches in June

May 28, 2024

South Korea will take seven international rookies to their upcoming pair of World Cup qualifying matches in June.

The Korea Football Association (KFA) on Monday released the 23-man squad list for South Korea’s World Cup qualifying contests against Singapore and China next month.

South Korea will play their final two Group C matches next month to wrap up the second round of Asian qualification for the 2026 World Cup. On June 6, they will face Singapore at the National Stadium in Singapore. Five days later, South Korea will host China at Seoul World Cup Stadium.

To be coached by caretaker manager Kim Do-hoon, South Korea will feature seven players who have never previously played for the senior national team.

This April 16, 2024, file photo provided by the Korea Football Association shows South Korean midfielder Bae Jun-ho. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhahp)
This April 16, 2024, file photo provided by the Korea Football Association shows South Korean midfielder Bae Jun-ho. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhahp)

The group includes former stars of underage national teams in forward Oh Se-hun of FC Machida Zelvia, midfielder Bae Jun-ho of Stoke City, and defenders Hwang Jae-won of Daegu FC and Choi Jun of FC Seoul.

Oh, 25, helped South Korea win the 2020 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship. Bae, 20, played in six of South Korea’s seven matches during their run to the fourth-place finish at last year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup. Hwang, 21, and Choi, 24, both played on South Korea’s gold medal-winning, under-24 squad at the Asian Games last fall in China.

Goalkeeper Hwang In-jae of Pohang Steelers, and defenders Park Seung-wook of Gimcheon Sangmu and Ha Chang-rae of Nagoya Grampus have been called up for the first time after never having represented the country at any age level. Hwang is the senior member of this trio at age 30, but he will likely be limited to a reserve role behind Jo Hyeon-woo, who has 31 caps.

They will join some of the usual suspects in longtime captain Son Heung-min, midfielders Lee Kang-in and Hwang In-beom, and defender Kim Jin-su.

Conspicuous by their absence will be defender Kim Min-jae and forward Cho Gue-sung.

Kim Do-hoon said Kim Min-jae recently suffered a left ankle injury while playing for Bayern Munich in Germany, while Cho, who recently finished his season in Denmark for FC Midtjylland, is scheduled to undergo surgery to address a nagging right knee injury in early June.

Among others, midfielder Jung Woo-young, a veteran of 72 caps, earned his first callup in 15 months, while another midfielder, Park Yong-woo, is back in the mix after not making the team for the March matches.

Coach Kim said it was difficult to bring about sweeping changes to the squad, considering the time constraints, but he and his staff had no other choice due to injuries and poor form for veterans.

“Even though we have a lot of new players, the incumbent players are all capable of building chemistry with anyone,” Kim said. “We’ll try to have good tactical preparations, and make sure the new and the old members of the team will get on the same page.”

In November last year, South Korea defeated Singapore at home 5-0 and then blanked China 3-0 on the road.

South Korea will not have any training session at home prior to their trip to Singapore. Kim will meet with his players at Incheon International Airport on June 2 before leaving for Singapore.

The KFA has not been able to fill the coaching vacancy since firing Jurgen Klinsmann in February following the AFC Asian Cup. Kim Do-hoon, former K League head coach, was named the national team’s latest caretaker boss last Monday.

In March, South Korea played two World Cup qualifying matches, both against Thailand, with temporary head coach Hwang Sun-hong in charge.

South Korea lead their group with 10 points from three wins and a draw. The top two nations from each of the nine groups will advance to the third round, which will begin in September this year.

South Korea have played at every World Cup since 1986.