South Korea national soccer team head coach Jürgen Klinsmann will experiment with his attacking lineup, dropping a number of key players in his final rotation ahead of a major tournament.
South Korea will face Iraq in a friendly at New York University Stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), on June 6 at 10 p.m. ET. The starting lineup has been released ahead of the match.
South Korea traveled to Abu Dhabi two days ago for a training camp ahead of the Asian Cup. In addition, overseas players such as Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur), Hwang Hee-chan (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Oh Hyun-kyu, and Yang Hyun-joon (Celtic) joined the team in the UAE on the third day after playing for their respective clubs.
In the end, Klinsmann decided to bench all four of his key overseas players and give his usual suspects a chance.
South Korea will play a 4-2-3-1 against Iraq. Kim Seung-gyu will be in goal and Lee Ki-je, Jung Seung-hyun, Kim Young-kwon, and Seol Young-woo will form the defense. Park Yong-woo and Hwang In-beom will start in the midfield. Lee Jae-sung, Hong Hyun-seok, and Jung Woo-young will start in the second line. Oh Hyun-kyu will be in charge of the front line.
Iraq will be led by Jalal Hassan in goal and Mercas Doski, Ali Adnan, Saad Natik, and Hussein Ali in defense. Osama Rashid and Amir Al-Amari in the middle, Ibrahim Bayesh, Ali Jassim, Montader Majed in the second line, and Mohanad Ali up front.
Son Heung-min, Hwang Hee-chan, Kim Min-jae (Bayern Munich), Cho Kyu-sung (Metzwilan), and Lee Kang-in (PSG), the usual front five when talking about Klinsmann, were all left out of the starting lineup. Instead, younger players like Hong Hyun-seok, Jung Woo-young, and Oh Hyun-gyu lined up on the offensive line. Veteran Kim Young-kwon is also notable in the center back pairing with Jung Seung-hyun instead of Kim Min-jae.
Lee Ki-joo, who hasn’t played for his club Suwon Samsung in recent months and was a controversial choice for the roster, will start on the flank.
Klinsmann is likely to look to rest some of his first-team players who have been through a tough run in the league with their clubs, looking for second-half contributions. He will also look to see if younger players can be used as Plan B.
Earlier, national team captain and signature striker Son Heung-min was called up to the squad after scoring and leading the team to victory at home against Bournemouth in the 20th round of the 2023-2024 Premier League on March 31.
Hwang Hee-chan, who shared with Son Heung-min the feat of becoming the first Korean to score 10 goals in a season in the Premier League, played until the Everton game on March 31 and then walked away.
Lee Kang-in was the exception. He was in charge of the team for the last time on April 4 against Toulouse in the Trophée des Champions (French Super Cup). He came back with the best possible result. Lee scored the game-winning goal in the third minute of the first leg at home against Toulouse. The 2-0 win was a much-anticipated victory. It was his first trophy since joining PSG in July last year. It was a double celebration as he was named Man of the Match (MOM).
Kim Min-jae and Cho Kyu-sung, on the other hand, came to Abu Dhabi with the main squad of the Klinsmanns after taking a break after returning home as the first half of their team’s schedule ended in the middle of last month.
South Korea will arrive in Qatar on Sept. 10 after the Iraq war.
In Group E, South Korea will face Bahrain (Jan. 15), Jordan (Jan. 20) and Malaysia (Jan. 25). The goal is to win the tournament. After winning the inaugural edition in 1956 and the second edition in 1960, the team is aiming to return to the top after 64 years.