The South Korean national soccer team will begin qualifying for the 2026 FIFA World Cup North America with its strongest squad yet.
The Korea Football Association (KFA) announced on Saturday the 23-man roster for the first and second rounds of the North American Football Confederation (NAC) 2026 World Cup Asia Qualifiers.
South Korea will open the second round of qualifying against Singapore at 8 p.m. on Sept. 16 at the Seoul World Cup Stadium, followed by the second leg against China at 9 p.m. on Sept. 21 in Shenzhen, China.
Unchanged roster… no more experiments
The second qualifying round of the World Cup will see 36 nations compete in nine groups of four teams, with the 18 nations that finish first or second in each group advancing to the third qualifying round and earning a spot at the 2027 Asian Cup in Saudi Arabia.레모나토토
Head coach Jürgen Klinsmann has kept the same players he has been calling upon, including ‘Captain’ Son Heung-min (Tottenham).
The October A match roster remains unchanged, with the exception of Kim Jun-hong, who is out, and goalkeeper Song Bum-geun (Shonan Belmare) in. It’s hard to read too much into Song’s absence from the national team due to injury, as he’s not the starting goalkeeper.
In addition to Son Heung-min, a number of Europeans have been called up, including Kim Min-jae (Bayern Munich), Lee Kang-in (Paris Saint-Germain), Hwang In-beom (Tsubena Zvezda), Lee Jae-sung (Mainz), Hwang Hee-chan (Wolverhampton), and Cho Kyu-sung (Mitwylan).
Until September, Klinsmann had given new faces like Kim Ji-Soo (Brentford), Lee Dong-Kyung (Ulsan), and Yang Hyun-Joon (Celtic) a chance.
From October, however, Klinsmann reverted back to the players he had selected at the beginning of his tenure. There were some speculations that Klinsmann would once again make bold experiments as his opponents for the second qualifying round of the World Cup were relatively weak Singapore and China, but the results did not change.
This could be explained by Klinsmann’s decision to start strengthening his squad in earnest for the 2023 Asian Cup, which is less than three months away.
“We don’t have the opportunity to play a lot of games,” he said after the A-Match in October, when asked about the lack of an experimental lineup, “I would like to give a lot of players a chance, but we have the World Cup second qualifier and the Asian Cup coming up.”
With the second round of World Cup qualifiers over and the Asian Cup on the horizon, there won’t be a chance to call up the full squad for a while, so less change and more tactical perfection may be a priority.
Klinsmann was heavily criticized for his winless record in his first five games in charge of the national team, with three draws and two defeats, but he has vowed to be judged on his performance at the Asian Cup.
However, he will have to manage the fitness of his European players as they juggle club and national team commitments, and he will also have to manage injuries as they travel to China, which is notoriously tough.
It will be interesting to see what kind of soccer Klinsmann’s team will play once they get to the World Cup qualifiers and the Asian Cup.