In fact, not many eyes were on South Korea’s Kim Joong-ho heading into the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Despite finishing as runners-up in Poland four years ago, the best finish in the team’s history, he didn’t get much attention until he led the team to an upset win over France in their first group game. This was due to the lack of a big-name star player like Lee Kang-in (Mallorca). Some critics dismissed the squad as the “Valley Generation”.
However, the team turned heads by reaching the quarterfinals of another U-20 World Cup. The tournament also gave us a glimpse of the next generation of stars who will lead Korean soccer after Lee Kang-in.
The team’s captain, Lee Seung-won (Gangwon), followed in Lee’s footsteps, wearing the No. 8 shirt and playing in both the group stage and the quarterfinals. In the quarterfinals against Italy, he scored a penalty kick to increase his tournament tally to six points (2 goals, 4 assists). This is the same number of offensive points as Lee Kang-in, who won the Golden Ball, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award, in Poland. He still has a chance to surpass Lee’s record with the third-place match against Israel still to come. All of Lee’s assists have come from set-piece kicks, and he has quickly become known as a “dead-ball specialist” in the tournament.
Lee has yet to make his K League debut for Gangwon’s B team. However, he has been on Kim’s radar since his days at Dankook University and has been consistently picked for the national team, earning him a spot as captain.
If Lee Seung-won’s performance was unexpected, Bae Joon-ho’s (Daejeon) was somewhat predictable. While most of the players in the national team have been struggling for playing time at their clubs, Bae Jun-ho has been getting consistent playing time for Daejeon in the K League 1.안전놀이터
After a slow start to the tournament due to an injury, he made a name for himself with a goal and an assist in the round of 16 against Ecuador. Ahead of the quarterfinals, he was named by FIFA as a player to watch in the final. Bae Jun-ho neutralized defenders with his unparalleled individual skills on the left flank. Lee Seung-won’s penalty kick was set up by Bae, who also drew a series of Italian fouls to stop him. After the game, Italy coach Carmine Nunziata remembered Bae and said, “The No. 10 was particularly good. An outstanding player.”