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In-form striker playing in China named to S. Korean roster for World Cup qualifier

August 26, 2019

South Korean striker Kim Shin-wook rode a hot scoring streak in China to a spot on the men’s national team.

Head coach Paulo Bento unveiled his 26-man roster Monday at the Korea Football Association (KFA) House in Seoul, ahead of a World Cup qualifying match next month, with Kim being named as one of three forwards.

South Korea, world No. 37, will travel to Ashgabat to play No. 132 Turkmenistan on Sept. 10 to start Group H play in the second round of the Asian World Cup qualifying campaign. Five days before that, South Korea will take on the 94th-ranked Georgia in Istanbul for a tuneup.

In this photo captured from the Weibo page for Shanghai Greenland Shenhua football club, Kim Shin-wook, a South Korean striker for the Chinese team, celebrates the team’s 3-2 victory over Dalian Yifang in the semifinals of the Chinese FA Cup at Dalian Sports Center Stadium in Dalian, China, on Aug. 20, 2019. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Kim, 31, has been on fire since leaving his K League 1 club Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors for Shanghai Greenland Shenhua in the Chinese Super League in July. He netted eight goals in his first five matches while playing for his former Jeonbuk boss, Choi Kang-hee, and the goal scoring prowess wasn’t lost on Bento.

Kim, the tallest South Korean player at 196 centimeters, last played for South Korea in June 2018 at the FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Bento said the time was ripe for him to select Kim, adding that he’d been keeping an eye on Kim and the forward had been on the reserve list for the national team on multiple occasions in the past.

“We’ll see how well Kim can fit into our system, but at the same time, we as a team have to find the right combination that will help Kim maximize his skills,” Bento said. “He’s obviously a different type of forward than the ones we selected previously. My job is to make whatever decisions that I think can help the team.”

Kim is joined on the attack by some usual suspects, including attacking midfielder and captain Son Heung-min and new French league striker Hwang Ui-jo.

Hwang, who left Japan to sign with Bordeaux in the Ligue 1, scored his first goal in France last Saturday. Hwang leads all players with seven goals in 16 matches on Bento’s watch.

Lee Jeong-hyeop of Busan IPark in the K League 2 is the other forward. This is Lee’s second consecutive call-up after friendlies in June.

Kwon Chang-hoon, a playmaking midfielder who newly joined SC Freiburg in the Bundesliga, made it back to Bento’s team after missing out on June friendly matches with an injury. Kwon scored his first German goal in his Freiburg debut last Saturday.

Valencia CF’s teenage midfielder Lee Kang-in got called up to the senior team for the second time. The 18-year-old, who won the Golden Ball at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in June as the best player of the tournament, was named to Bento’s team in March but didn’t play in either of the friendlies against Bolivia or Colombia.

Ulsan Hyundai midfielder Lee Dong-gyeong is the only player to earn his first call-up. The 21-year-old has appeared in four matches for the under-23 national team.

There was just one change on defense from the roster in June, with Kim Moon-hwan dropped from what was a nine-man unit. Bento will go with eight defenders this time.

The coach is taking the same three goalkeepers from June, with Kim Seung-gyu and Jo Hyeon-woo expected to battle for the starting job and Goo Seung-yun being the third-string custodian.

There are eight groups of five teams in the second round. The eight group winners plus the four best runners-up will advance to the third round. But if Qatar, which will host the 2022 World Cup, win their group or finish as one of the four best No. 2 seeds, then the fifth-best runners-up will qualify for the third round.

South Korea will also face Lebanon (No. 87), North Korea (No. 118) and Sri Lanka (No. 200) in Group H, as they seek to qualify for their 10th consecutive World Cup.

The match against Georgia in Istanbul will be South Korea’s first against a European nation since Bento took over the reins last fall.

Bento will gather his players Sunday, and they will travel to Istanbul the following day. They’re scheduled to return home from Turkmenistan on Sept. 12.

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