The list of 16 players for Korea’s call-up training in preparation for the 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup, which will take place in Qatar from January to February next year, was announced on Wednesday. The list, which is led by K-League players, shows no significant change from the past. German coach Jürgen Klinsmann has consistently selected members for the national team. It can be seen as trust in the players he has watched during 10 A-matches and five call-ups since his inauguration in March this year.
However, some criticize the move. They are concerned about the overly rigid selection and appointment of players. The move may be taken to maximize the teamwork of existing players for the short-term goal of the Asian Cup, but it is also reasonable to criticize that generational change is slow in the long run.
One of the most vulnerable positions in the Korean national team is fullback. Korea has scored 19 points and no goals in five recent A-match games, but has yet to address instability in the side defense. Since Coach Klinsmann’s inauguration, Lee Ki-je (32) has been serving as the starting fullback on the left and Seol Young-woo (25) on the right, but there are many causes of instability. During the away match of the second qualifying round in Asia for the 2026 North-China World Cup against China in late November, Lee caused a loss crisis due to his missed pass, and Seol has shown weakness in defense despite his strength in offense and connection.
In order to improve the national team’s capacity, generational change of full-backs is urgently needed. The “Clinsman Team” should have in mind not only the upcoming Asian Cup but also the 2026 North Korea-China-U.S. World Cup. If Kim Jin-soo (31, Jeonbuk Hyundai) and Kim Tae-hwan (34, Ulsan Hyundai) on the left are included, Seol Young-woo is the only one in the team’s full-backs in their 20s who desperately needs blood transfusions.
The K-League has many promising fullbacks. Hwang Jae-won (21, Daegu FC), who won the gold medal at the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games, and Park Seung-wook (26, Pohang Steelers), a multiplayer who can play both right and left sides, have also been on the national team roster. Du Hyun-seok (27), who led Gwangju FC’s meteoric rise, also proved his potential this season. If generational change is not achieved, it will not be easy to motivate players and expect the team to boost performance.