It’s an unsung revolt.
South Korea’s U-20 World Cup captain Lee Seung-won (20-Gangwon FC) led the way in the team’s upset of ‘favorites’ France. After earning his first tournament cap last year, Lee steadily climbed aboard the Kim Eun Joong-ho and earned the captain’s armband, playing a key role in South Korea’s victory in the first match of the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
Lee Seung-won started the full match against France in Group F of the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup at the Mendoza Stadium in Argentina on Wednesday (June 23) and scored one goal and provided one assist. His performance helped South Korea advance to the round of 16 in a dramatic 2-1 victory over France.
He broke the deadlock himself in the 22nd minute. After a quick counterattack, Lee sprinted into the opponent’s half. After receiving a pass from Kim Yong-hwan (Portimonense), he found himself one-on-one with the keeper and rattled the net with a precise right-footed shot.
In the 19th minute, he showed off his kicking ability. He sent a precise free kick from the left side of the penalty box into the box, where Lee Young-joon (Gimcheon Commerce) headed it in to drive a wedge into the game. Kim Eun-joong-ho later conceded a penalty kick (PK) on a questionable call, but the team was able to hold on to the one-goal lead and secure the 2-1 victory.
Not only did Lee have a hand in both goals, but he was also the most active player on either side of the ball, running a whopping 12.32 kilometers in 90 minutes. The team’s captain and central midfielder was a key contributor to the team’s upset of the favorites, France.
What made his performance all the more valuable was that his journey to the U-20 World Cup was one of drama.
When he was called up to the national team last year while still at Dankook University, Lee was an unknown quantity with no national team experience. Although he was a promising prospect in high school, he never made it to the youth national team (U-14-U-17).
However, his performances at the collegiate level caught the eye of Korean coach Kim Eun-joong. He was a surprise call-up to the national team in January of last year, the team’s first training session in preparation for the U-20 World Cup. “It’s a case of discovering a player who had no national team experience at all,” said Kim. He wasn’t even a professional, but he stood out in college games.”
Lee seized the opportunity, and with his work rate and skill in the center of the field, he completely won Kim’s heart. Lee has since become Kim’s “go-to guy,” participating in most of the national team’s training camps and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-20 Asian Cup qualifiers and tournaments.
In just one year and four months, the unknown player with no national team experience made it to the final roster for the U-20 World Cup. Kim is one of the few players to make it to the World Cup from his first call-up.
His leadership qualities earned him the captaincy early on and earned him the trust of his teammates. When he missed the semifinal against Uzbekistan due to injury at the AFC U-20 Asian Cup in March, his starting teammates took a pre-match photo with his jersey.
Even after turning pro this year with Gangwon, he didn’t get much attention. He was benched for two games in April, but that didn’t lead to a debut. He also played for Gangwon’s B team, but only made three appearances in the K4 League due to injury. While his other teammates have been performing well in the K League and garnering attention before the tournament, Lee has received less attention. His performance against France was all the more remarkable for that. 메이저놀이터
Lee told the Korea Football Association after the game, “On the counterattack, (Kim) Yonghak was running up and there was no one on the other side. It was hard, but I ran with all my strength, and fortunately, I was able to finish it easily,” he said, adding, “We will only enjoy the joy of victory until today and prepare well for the remaining matches against Honduras and Gambia.”
Thanks to Lee’s one-man show and goalkeeper Kim Jun-hong (Gimcheon)’s saves, Kim Eun-jung-ho’s side held off top-seeded France to start the tournament as joint leaders with The Gambia. Their second game is against Honduras at 6 a.m. on June 26.