Next up, the round of 16, and ‘a full squad’ Lee is looking forward to “really good, football-minded teammates” [Hangzhou 2022]

The Hangzhou Asian Games (AG) men’s soccer team has the final piece of the puzzle: Lee Kang-in (22-Paris Saint-Germain).

South Korea won 3-0 against Bahrain in their Group E match on Thursday at the Jinhua Sports Center Stadium in Zhejiang, China. Having booked their place in the round of 16 and top spot in the group in games one and two, the team took the first step towards a third consecutive title with a clean sweep in the final game.

With wins and losses unimportant, what South Korea needed to see was the performance of late addition Lee Kang-in, who joined the squad on Nov. 21 after making his comeback match (17 minutes) for his club on Nov. 20 with a left quadriceps injury. He did not play against Thailand on the same day.

Lee Kang-in in action during the final Group E match of the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games against Bahrain at the Jinhua Sports Center Stadium in Jinhua, Zhejiang province, China, on Thursday. Photo: Korea Football Association

Lee’s first appearance against Bahrain was far from perfect. He failed to record an attacking point and seemed to struggle against Bahrain’s intensive defense. However, he gradually warmed up and started to link up with his teammates, especially in the 24th minute, when he quickly made a non-stop pass with his left foot that led to headers from Jung Woo-young and Cho Young-wook, which chilled the Bahraini players. “There were a lot of impressive Korean players, especially No. 18 (Lee Kang-in), who made the difference,” Bahrain coach Dario Basic admitted after the game.

As impressive as Lee’s performance was, it was his playing time that caught our attention. The national team substituted him after only 35 minutes when he returned from injury. It wasn’t a health issue, as Lee raised his hand and smiled at the Korean fans who cheered him on after his substitution.온라인바카라

The men’s football group stage match between South Korea and Bahrain at the 19th Hangzhou Asian Games at Jinhua Sports Center Stadium in Jinhua, east China’s Zhejiang Province, on Thursday. Lee Kang-in is substituted during the first half. Photo by Yonhap

Appearing in the mix zone after the match, Lee said, “It was a fun game. It was my first time playing with the Asian Games team. I think we have a lot to improve on in the future.” When asked about his playing time, Lee said, “I already knew (about the playing time limit) before the game, so I’m not too disappointed. The next match (the round of 16) is the most important. I will prepare well and try to win.”

The phrase “complete” is not just used because of the addition of Lee Kang-in. Without Lee, the national team reaffirmed their 13-goal performance from the previous two matches. South Korea got a point apiece from center back Lee Han-beom, captain Baek Seung-ho, and Ko Young-joon, who replaced Lee in the second half. The team rested key players from the starting lineup, and it paid off in the second half. “The other national team players are also very good,” Lee said. They know soccer very well, so I’m looking forward to the future,” Lee said.

Lee Kang-in talks with head coach Hwang Sun-hong after joining the Asian Games soccer team on Nov. 21. Photo: Korea Football Association

With more cards in the deck, the question is how Hwang will utilize his ace Lee Kang-in. Against Bahrain, Lee’s role was to play a secondary free role. After the game, Hwang said, “I think it’s better to use him a little more freely. I’m also thinking about the positions he plays depending on the situation.” Lee said, “I don’t think it’s important (for me) how (the coach) wants me to play right now. I have to fit in with the team as much as possible and try to be helpful.”

“The most important thing right now is that we’re all together as a team and we’re all looking at the same goal,” Lee said, “and I want to help the team as much as possible to get there.” He added, “Even if I don’t perform well (individually), it’s the team performance that matters in this tournament. I’m going to try to help the team win.”

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