The South Korean national soccer team (23rd in FIFA rankings), led by Jurgen Klinsmann, won 3-1 in the first Group E match of the 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Qatar Asian Cup against Bahrain (86th in FIFA rankings) at 8:30 p.m. on the 15th (Korea time) at Jasim bin Hamad Stadium in Alayyan, Qatar.
He won, but it was a disappointing game. In particular, there is strong criticism against Lee Ki-je, who played as a left fullback on the day. In fact, Lee Ki-je had many regrets in terms of performance. Based on soccer statistics media “Sopa Score,” Lee Ki-je recorded six ball competitions (successful once), zero air ball competitions, eight ball thefts, four fouls, two cleanups, and one interception.
Lee had no strong cross. Lee was chosen by K League coach Klinsmann for his sharp left foot kick. However, Lee failed to show any of his strong points on the day. Rather, he frequently lost the tempo or gave credit to others.
Lee’s performance had already deteriorated in the K-League. Lee has shown disappointment throughout this season, failing to prevent his team from being demoted to Suwon Samsung. He even remained in the bench starting in October by giving up the starting lineup.
Lee was thoroughly neglected when he was coached by Paulo Bento. Lee, who made his A-match debut in June 2021, was never called by Bento again after one call-up. However, Klinsmann consistently selected Lee. Lee was selected from the match against Colombia in March last year, his first game in charge, and he started 11 out of 12 games until this match against Bahrain.
When he judged that the player`s form had deteriorated, he had to select another player for an experiment. However, Coach Klinsmann did not conduct an experiment on left fullback except for Lee Ki-je and Kim Jin-soo at every convocation. The more competitions he plays, the more he will be criticized for this.
Controversy arose as Lee was included in the Asian Cup roster. At the time, Coach Klinsmann said, “Lee had a hard time in his team this season. Why he didn’t play and what’s wrong with his team is something that cannot be involved in.”
“It was a difficult season and I know that I couldn’t play. However, I would like to say that whenever I called for this event, my attitude and my ability to play a role in the game were not enough,” he added.
The competition has already begun. They cannot change players. However, they do not have resources to replace Lee. Kim Jin-soo, who is in the same position, is still in the recovery training stage due to injury. Even if he returns, it is questionable whether he will be able to show his normal performance. After all, the best way would be to place Seol Young-woo on the left and Kim Tae-hwan on the right.