Lee Kang-in’s one-man show brings victory, surpasses expectations to become an ace

Lee Kang-in, 22, has proven himself an ace in Korean soccer beyond expectations. Chants of his name echoed through the Sangam Bee. Even with a more hectic schedule than ever, Lee’s presence was enough to bring the fans to their feet.

Jürgen Klinsmann’s national team (ranked 26th in the FIFA rankings) defeated Tunisia (ranked 29th) 4-0 in their October A Test match at the Seoul World Cup Stadium on Sept. 13. It was the first back-to-back wins since Klinsmann’s arrival in March and the first multi-goal victory.

The star of the show for the Sangambeul was Lee Kang-in, who started the game as an attacking midfielder, supporting Cho Kyu-sung up front. The first 45 minutes didn’t live up to expectations, but the second 45 minutes were different. Moving to the right side of the field, he found the corner of the net nine minutes into the second half with a sharp left-footed shot from a free-kick opportunity won by his own dribble. The goalkeeper got a hand to it, but its exquisite course was unstoppable. It was Lee’s first goal in just 15 A-match appearances.

Lee didn’t stop there. Three minutes later, he won a battle with the opposition defense in the box after collecting a ball from behind. With his back to goal, he neutralized the defense with a stunning left-footed turn. The goalkeeper could only stare in disbelief as Lee took a quick shot half a beat later.

Lee Kang-in followed up with a promising corner kick strategy with Kim Min-jae in the 22nd minute, leading to an own goal. In the first 22 minutes of the second half, it was a two-goal, one-assist “one-man show” for Lee Kang-in. Lee was replaced by Moon Sun-min in the 45th minute to finish the job. Klinsmannhoe added a late goal from Hwang Eui-jo in stoppage time to secure a four-point clean sheet victory.메이저사이트

Lee Kang-in proved to be an ace on the day. Lee Kang-in has been playing steadily since the launch of Klinsmann in March, but he was far from an attacking point. His flashy dribbling and key passes (the ones that led to shots) were still there, but there were some who said he was “lacking substance. Klinsmann also received a report card for the worst start in the national team’s history, with three draws and two losses in the first five games.

On this day, however, Lee single-handedly led the team to victory, especially with captain Son Heung-min absent and Hwang Hee-chan blocked by a harsh foul from an opponent.

Tunisia’s head coach Jalel Khadri said at the post-match press conference, “I was impressed with Lee Kang-in, the No. 18. He has great individual skills and he has great speed, which can make a difference.” A day later, local French media outlets Le Parisien and RMC Sport joined in the praise, saying, “South Korea defeated Tunisia thanks to Lee Kang-in.”

Lee was sidelined with a thigh injury in the second round of the 2023-24 Ligue 1 season against Toulouse in August. After a month-long layoff, Lee made a brief 10-minute comeback in the UEFA Champions League (UCL) before heading to the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games (AG) with the Huangshan Honghao. Lee started every game of the tournament, including the third round of the group stage, and was part of the team’s gold medal run. Soon after, he was called up by Klinsmann to join the A team. It was a hectic schedule, but he started his ‘ace story’ by scoring his first A-match goal in four years.

Meanwhile, speaking about Lee Kang-in, who scored multiple goals, Klinsmann said, “He is being treated as an entertainer, not a soccer player. Celebrities don’t score goals. For him to grow further, he needs an environment where he is humble, hungry, and focused on soccer.” He also worried about Lee Kang-in. Lee reiterated his role, saying, “I always try to make plays that will help the team and bring us closer to victory.”


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