After reaching the quarterfinals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup for the second time in a row, South Korea’s Kim Eun-Joong-ho was criticized ahead of the tournament for lacking a standout star player compared to previous editions.
In particular, the tournament has been compared to the previous tournament in Poland in 2019, when the presence of Lee Kang-in (Mallorca), who led South Korea to its first-ever FIFA-organized men’s final and won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player, was evident.
However, as this team has progressed to the quarterfinals, players have started to emerge who have been compared to Lee four years ago.
Leading the way is midfielder Lee Seung-won (Gangwon), who serves as the national team captain.
After a goal and an assist in the first group game against France (a 2-1 win), he followed that up with assists in the second group game against Honduras, the round of 16 against Ecuador, and the quarterfinals against Nigeria, leading the way for Korea.
With one goal and four assists to date, he is one point shy of Lee’s six points (two goals, four assists) from the 2019 tournament 안전놀이터.
Speaking at the semifinal press conference at La Plata Stadium in Argentina on July 7 (local time), a day before the semifinal against Italy, Lee was humbled by the comparison to Lee Kang-in four years ago, saying, “I think it’s an honor to be called that.”
Four years ago, Lee played a key role in South Korea’s quarterfinal victory over Ecuador, setting up Choi Joon (Busan) for the game-winning goal with an unexpected pass that caught the opposition off guard on a free kick.
Ahead of the semifinal against Italy (Sept. 9 at 6 a.m. KST at La Plata Stadium), Kim Eun Joong-ho’s sharpened toes could be the key to a second straight trip to the final.
“I want to help the team,” Lee said, “and I think if I show sacrifice, the results will follow,” he added.