Kang Sang-woo, who was cut off from the national team after moving to the Chinese Super League, will make his first appearance in a year and eight months in September’s A match. He has been on fire this season, scoring the most goals since his professional debut.
National team coach Jürgen Klinsmann announced his 25-man A squad on Monday. Two standouts were Beijing Guoan’s Kang Sang-woo and Ulsan Hyundai’s Lee Dong-kyung. Kang Sang-woo was recalled after a move to the Chinese Super League and Lee Dong-kyung after a post-European slump that left him estranged from the national team for a year and eight months. Their coach, Paulo Bento, had already left South Korea after the World Cup in Qatar.
If you’re wondering why 30-year-old Kang Sang-woo is back, his stats this season should convince you. With seven goals and three assists, Sang-woo has reached a new single-season team record. There’s still plenty of time left in the season, so he could easily reach 10 goals. He is the top scorer for fourth-place Beijing in the Super League. On the 26th, he also scored a goal in the team’s 5-1 win over Changzhou.
Kang Sang-woo’s goalscoring prowess allows him to play wingers and fullbacks freely
Kang Sang-woo has had three different coaches in Beijing. He was initially recruited as a fullback, but his new coaches saw him without preconceived notions and concluded that he was the best in the team at both winger and fullback.
In June of this year, Portuguese coach Ricardo Soares was appointed. Kang Sang-woo had scored four goals in a row in May, but in the first game of the new coach’s tenure, he was injured and missed three weeks. “I don’t know you very well. I don’t know you very well. What is your position?” To which Sang-woo replied, “My natural position is on the flank, but I can also attack from the flank.” In his first game back, Kang started as a winger and scored a goal. His confidence and the coach’s trust were solidified.
“The coach puts a lot of faith in me now. I usually play as a winger, but if there’s a hole in the fullback position, he’ll move me around, saying, ‘Sang-woo, you can see it even if you haven’t trained.’ He allows me to be active during the game. So sometimes I start the game as a left winger, but after exchanging glances with my teammates, I play longer on the right. As a result, the goals started to come and the stats built up nicely.”
He received an unexpected text congratulating him on his return to the national team, but the player he wanted to meet the most was Hong Hyun-seok.
Immediately after going to China, I was looking forward to every call-up when the national team roster was announced. He was even contacted by the team’s medical staff about his physical condition. But as time went on, he became numb to the day the roster was announced.
“After the workout, I picked up my phone and there were congratulatory texts, and one of them was from Daegu’s Kim Jin-hyuk. He said, ‘Congratulations. We became close in the army, and I was grateful that he took care of my national team call-up. On the other hand, I also wondered what was wrong with him. Last time, I got a call out of the blue saying, ‘Hey, my baby wants this,’ and it looked like something a dad would want. They’re too close to each other to pull a prank like that.”
He is looking forward to reuniting with teammates Jung Seung-hyun, Lee Jae-sung, and Cho Hyun-woo. One teammate he is curious about is Hong Hyun-seok. Cameroonian international Mikael N’Gadu, now a Beijing defender, played with Hong at Hent until last year. N’Gadu would call Kang Sang-woo “Hong” whenever he saw him, and kept comparing him to Hong Hyun-seok in terms of the way he played and his role in the team. “I’d like to meet him in person to see if he’s right, because it could be a facial resemblance.”
▲ In the national team, he will probably play left back and show off his aggressive play.
“My position? I’m curious too. Even the Chinese players on the team ask me what position you’re going to play when you go to the national team. I looked at the national team roster, and there are two right backs, Seol Young-woo and Ahn Hyun-beom, and only one left back, Lee Ki-je. I think I’m probably a left back.”
Klinsmann’s “attacking forward” mentality has also rubbed off on Kang Sang-woo. He is second to none when it comes to attacking, and he excels not only at straightforward overlaps but also at holding the ball up like a winger and sending in precise crosses. Playing in an away A match in Europe would be a new experience for him. He knows that he has to showcase his strengths in order to be selected for the national team after a long absence. 메이저놀이터
Men’s national team roster for the September A match
GK: Kim Seung-kyu (Al-Shabab), Cho Hyun-woo (Ulsan Hyundai), Kim Jun-hong (Gimcheon Sangmu)
DF: Kim Young-kwon, Jung Seung-hyun, Seol Young-woo (Ulsan Hyundai), Kim Min-jae (Bayern Munich), Lee Ki-jae (Suwon Samsung), Kim Joo-sung (FC Seoul), Kang Sang-woo (Beijing Guoan), Kim Ji-soo (Brentford)
MF: Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur), Moon Sun-min, Ahn Hyun-beom (Jeonbuk Hyundai), Park Yong-woo (Al Ain), Yang Hyun-joon (Celtic), Lee Dong-kyung (Ulsan Hyundai), Lee Jae-sung (Mainz 05), Hong Hyun-seok (KAA Hent), Hwang In-beom (Olympiacos), Hwang Hee-chan (Wolverhampton), Lee Sun-min (Gwangju FC)
FW: Oh Hyun-gyu (Celtic), Cho Kyu-sung (Mitwillan), Hwang Eui-jo (Nottingham Forest)