In the four-and-a-half years that Paulo Bento has been in charge of the South Korean national soccer team, the defense has remained largely unchanged.
Kim Min-jae (Napoli) and Kim Young-kwon (Ulsan Hyundai) are the starting center backs, with Park Ji-soo (Portimonense), Kwon Kyung-won (Gambaosaka), and Jeong Seung-hyun (Ulsan) as rotational options. Cho Yoo-min (Daejeon Hana Citizen) also joined the team during the final qualifying round for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Kim Young-kwon and Kim Min-jae were the main players at the Qatar World Cup, while Park Ji-soo was injured, Jung Seung-hyun was dropped from the squad, and Cho Yoo-min joined.
In the March A match under Jürgen Klinsmann, the team remained unchanged from the Qatar World Cup squad.
This June’s A match, the first of the real Klinsmann era, saw changes.
First and foremost, the absence of center backs Kim Min-jae and Kim Young-kwon was significant. Kim Min-jae was unable to join the squad due to basic military training and Kim Young-kwon due to a hamstring injury.
In addition, Kwon Kyung-won, who was previously called up, was injured in the midweek Cheonhwangbae match.
The only two center backs who survived the call-up were Park Ji-soo and Jung Seung-hyun, both of whom played in Europe after the World Cup.
“It’s a shame that (Kim) Young-kwon and (Kim) Min-jae couldn’t play with me,” Park said in a pre-training interview on the second day of Klinsmann’s June A match call-up on the 13th, “but I’ll try to prepare well with the rest of the players and show a good performance.”
Next to the two, newcomer Kim Joo-sung 메이저놀이터 (FC Seoul) is now the only center back option. Park Kyu-hyun (Dresden) was paired with Park Ji-soo at center back during the first training session on the 12th, but he was previously a fullback.
However, there is one thing that is not a concern for the three players: their military service. All three players were enlisted in 2021, the first season of Gimcheon Sangmu.
Kim Joo-sung and Jung Seung-hyun were the first batch of Gimcheon Sangmu, enlisting on March 8, 2021, and discharged on September 7, 2022. Park Ji-soo is a second-generation Gimcheon Sangmu player who enlisted on June 21, 2021, and was discharged on December 18, 2022.
With the three players at center back, Gimcheon won the 2021 season’s K League 2 title and earned promotion to K League 1.
“Kim Joo-sung and Jung Seung-hyun played together at Gimcheon, so I know what they want to do and how they want to do it, so I don’t think I need to say that (we need to work together),” Park Ji-soo said.