The national soccer team’s ‘Road to Qatar’ journey under coach Jürgen Klinsmann (59) has begun in earnest. Seven months of intense internal competition are expected.

On June 12, Klinsmann’s squad gathered at Sajik Sports Complex in Busan for their first training session in preparation for the two A matches against Peru and El Salvador in June. Coach Klinsmann said, “I will see the will and passion of the players (this time). I want to see how much they want to go to Qatar, and I want them to prove it on the field.”

Klinsmann, who took the helm in March, spent three months closely observing domestic and foreign players before selecting his roster for the two games in June. It was the “real first period” under Klinsmann.

From this call-up, the team will immediately begin preparations for the Asian Cup in Qatar in seven months. For the players called up by Klinsmann, the two games and the upcoming A-match schedule are an audition. They need to catch Klinsmann’s eye to make it to Qatar.

Compared to three months ago, the June roster has changed significantly. The core of the defense, Kim Min-jae (Napoli), is out due to basic military training, 먹튀검증 and other existing resources such as center back Kim Young-kwon (Ulsan Hyundai) and midfielders Jung Woo-young (Al Saad) and Baek Seung-ho (Jeonbuk Hyundai) are out with injuries.

Hong Hyun-seok (KAA Ghent), Won Doo-jae (Gimcheon Commerce), Jeong Seung-hyun (Ulsan), and Park Kyu-hyun (Dynamo Dresden) are the newcomers, and it’s a big opportunity for the defenders in particular. Six of the eight defenders on the June roster are new faces, including Seol Young-woo (Ulsan), who was called up to replace Kim Jin-soo (Jeonbuk) after his back injury in March.

Under former national team coach Paulo Bento, Kim Jin-soo, Kim Young-kwon, Kim Min-jae, and Kim Moon-hwan (Jeonbuk) were the starters. If the newcomers prove to be competitive, there is plenty of potential for tectonic shifts. The central defense line is likely to be a Kim Min-jae and Kim Young-kwon combination for the time being, but competition for the remaining spots is expected to be fierce.

The highly sought-after frontline striker spot remains unchanged. Lee Min-kyu (Ulsan – 10 goals), the leading scorer in the K League 1, was once again overlooked, while Hwang Eui-jo (FC Seoul), Cho Kyu-sung (Jeonbuk), and Oh Hyun-gyu (Celtic) were once again selected by Klinsmann.

Initially, the competition for the three strikers seemed to be in favor of Oh, who arrived in Scotland late. Meanwhile, Hwang Eui-jo and Cho Kyu-sung had been silent in the K League. However, just before the national team was called up, Hwang Ui-jo and Cho Kyu-sung found the back of the net side by side, signaling a heated competition for the starting spot.

There was a twist for “ace” Son Heung-min (Tottenham), who will lead the national team’s attack, as he reportedly underwent surgery for a sports hernia late last month. The Korea Football Association (KFA) told us on the 13th, “Son Heung-min underwent a minor sports hernia surgery in England in May. The player himself has full intentions to play, but his participation has not been decided.” Son participated in the training program on the 12th and 13th as normal, but was reportedly excluded from some drills.

It will be interesting to see if Kim Seung-kyu (Al Shabab) and Cho Hyun-woo (Ulsan), who have been battling it out since 2017, can win Klinsmann’s heart. The pair played one game each in Korea’s two March A matches.

The race to Qatar has already begun. “It will be important in these two games to see if the players show me, the coaching staff and the fans that they want to go to Qatar,” Klinsmann said. South Korea will play two exhibition matches against Peru (Busan) on Nov. 16 and El Salvador (Daejeon) on Nov. 20.

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