Will ‘Golden Boy’ Lee Kang-in, 22, who plays for French side Paris Saint-Germain (SPG), be part of the Korean men’s soccer team at the Hangzhou Asian Games, will find out today (Nov. 14).
Head coach Hwang Sun-hong’s Asian Games men’s football team will convene at the Paju National Training Center (NFC) on Thursday. On that day, Hwang will personally reveal whether Lee Kang-in will join the Asian Games squad. Earlier, Hwang said the final decision on Lee’s inclusion would be made on the 13th.
Lee was sidelined in August with a left quadriceps (thigh) injury. At the time, PSG said, “He needs to focus on his recovery until the end of the A-match”. As a soccer player, the thigh is a sensitive area, so there were concerns about his timing. If the injury is prolonged, it could make it difficult for him to participate in the Asian Games.
‘Injury’ Lee Kang-in is back on track and has a green light to join the Hangzhou AG squad
However, Lee recently shook off the injury and returned to training with his team. Paris Saint-Germain released a video of Lee training on the club’s social networking site on December 12. The video shows Lee warming up at the club’s indoor training center using a cycling machine and bands. Later, he was seen outdoors on the training field, exchanging passes with his teammates and showing his normal physical condition. He also appeared to have no problems running with his teammates. He also played a mini-game and shot accurately at the goal.
On the same day, France Press Sport said, “It’s good news for Lee. If the injury does not recur, he will return to Ligue 1 after the A-match break.” Lee’s return to action was largely due to his own determination. Earlier, Lee Kang-in was seen rehabbing four days after his injury was announced. At the time, Lee Kang-in looked serious and worked out with the club’s trainer on the equipment. He also expressed his determination to make a comeback to his fans. On the last three days, Lee wrote “Soon” on his social media accounts, hinting at his return.
This is not his first injury. This is his second injury since joining PSG. In July, he suffered a pulled muscle in the first preseason game against Le Havre (France) and ended up having to be substituted at half-time. Lee did not play a single game on the Japan tour, focusing solely on his recovery. Following the Japan tour, Lee played 20 minutes against Jeonbuk Hyundai in South Korea, but he wasn’t at full fitness.
Luckily for Lee, he started two consecutive games as a striker in the opening round of the French Ligue 1, where he shared the spotlight with his teammates. In the league opener against Lorient on March 13, Lee had 84 touches on the ball, an 88% passing success rate, and a 60% success rate on long passes. Although he did not record any offensive points, he also attempted three shots on goal, rattling the opposing defense. After the game, soccer stats site Sofascore gave Lee a rating of 7.3, and he was also named “The Player” by the Ligue 1 secretariat, an MVP award given to the player with the best performance.
However, due to a subsequent injury, Lee did not participate in the two A matches in September (Wales and Saudi Arabia). At the same time, he was also unable to join the U-22 national team led by Hwang Sun-hong. In Lee’s absence, the U-22s qualified for the 2024 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Asian Cup with a 2-0 record (6 points) in Group B, topping the group. South Korea’s fellow group member Myanmar, on the other hand, failed to qualify for the Asian Cup after drawing 1-1 with Kyrgyzstan (1 point). However, there were many question marks about their performance.
Hwang Sun-hong hopes to be even stronger when Lee Kang-in joins the team↑ “I have no problem with being sent off”
South Korea got off to a shaky start with a 0-2 loss to Qatar, but fortunately, the Asian Cup hosts were able to breathe a sigh of relief as the result did not count against them in the standings. They went on to win 1-0 against Kyrgyzstan in the second match and 3-0 against Myanmar in the third match, eventually taking the top spot. However, many people were disappointed with the one-goal win against Kyrgyzstan, which is considered a weaker team than South Korea. Of course, it is difficult to make an accurate comparison because it is an adult national team, but Kyrgyzstan is ranked 97th in the FIFA rankings, which is a huge difference from South Korea (28th). Myanmar is also a team with a lower skill level than South Korea, but South Korea only held a one-goal lead until the 80th minute after scoring an early goal. Furthermore, Qatar thrashed Myanmar 6-0, making the comparison simplistic.
In this situation, the addition of Lee Kang-in would be a huge boost for the national team. South Korea boasted a lively flanking attack in the two matches against Kyrgyzstan and Myanmar. The addition of Lee Kang-in to the squad and his ability to play in the center of the field will only make South Korea’s performance stronger.
The Asian Games soccer team will convene at Paju NFC on Thursday before traveling to Hangzhou for the final match on Saturday. Lee Kang-in had already included participation in the Asian Games as a condition of his contract when he left Real Mallorca for PSG in the summer transfer window. “When Lee Kang-in signed his contract with PSG, they cleverly inserted a clause regarding his loan for the Asian Games,” said Jürgen Klinsmann, head coach of the Korean national soccer team. “So there is no problem for him to participate in the Asian Games. However, we need to coordinate with PSG on the timing of his return to the national team. For now, it seems likely that he will join the team in time for the first match of the Asian Games. The Asian Games are not a FIFA-organized tournament, so there is no compulsory transfer for clubs. So, if PSG were to send Lee at that point, it wouldn’t be a problem for the club.
If he makes it through the ‘Group of Death’ Champions League schedule, he could be available for the third leg against Bahrain.
Now that the international break is over, Lee could be available for PSG’s 2023-24 French Ligue 1 fifth-round match against OGC Nice on Sept. 16. PSG is in second place in the league with a record of two wins and two draws (8 points) this season. They will need Lee to help them get off to a strong start to the season. And if he boards a flight back to Hangzhou after this game, he could be in line to play in the first round after joining the Asian Games squad. Hwang will kick off the Asian Games group stage against Kuwait on Nov. 19, followed by Thailand on Nov. 21 and Bahrain on Nov. 24. All three games will be played at the Jinhua Sports Center Stadium in Zhejiang, China.
However, there are other scenarios. PSG will host Borussia Dortmund (Germany) on Oct. 20 in the first leg of their 2023-2024 UEFA Champions League group stage. PSG is drawn in a so-called “group of death” with AC Milan (Italy) and Newcastle United (England) and will have to go all out. If Lee plays this game, he will not be able to play against Kuwait. It’s also unclear if he’ll be able to play against Thailand. If he does, he could be available for the third game against Bahrain. It”s safe to say that Lee Kang-in is the centerpiece of the Korean national soccer team at the Asian Games. However, he hasn”t had much time to work with the first-team players. The Asian Games are not only about medals, but also about a player”s career. If you win a gold medal at the Asian Games, you’ll be eligible for military service. South Korea will be looking to make it three in a row after winning in Incheon 2014 and Jakarta-Palembang 2018. At the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang, “team captain” Son Heung-min (Tottenham) and Kim Min-jae (Bayern Munich) received military service benefits and are now dominating the European scene. Will Lee Kang-indo be able to add more wings to his career with an AG gold medal?