“Believe in the potential,” Kim encourages + players believe in themselves = ‘stars are born’

“(In youth), even playing one practice match is a big experience in itself.”

Kim’s U-20s, who are currently in the quarterfinals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023 in Argentina, are often referred to as the ‘Valley Generation’.

While the national team led by Lee Kang-in (Mallorca), who won the Golden Ball at the 2019 tournament in Poland, was growing up with memories of finishing as runners-up, the U-20s were unable to gain much international experience after the 2021 U-17 World Cup was canceled due to the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in 2020.

When international competitions resumed in April last year, they turned to the U-20 national team, but their limited experience was disappointing. There were big question marks about their ability to qualify for the Asian qualifiers, as they hadn’t played against countries from different continents to see if they were competitive.

The disappointment of barely beating Uzbekistan, one of the best teams in the U-20 age group, was the catalyst for the doubts. If you look at the results, they failed to make it to the final, drawing 1-1 in a two-game series against Uzbekistan last November and losing on penalties after a 0-0 draw in the U-20 Asian Cup quarterfinals in March this year.

The vast majority of them are used by their clubs as compulsory U-22 players, playing as little as 15 minutes in the first half or as much as 30 minutes in the second half before returning to the bench. It’s strange that match fitness isn’t a concern. Coach Kim, who watched the game, had the same concerns.

The more he watched, the more he believed in his players. He didn’t feel sorry for the players who weren’t particularly talented or popular. Rather, Kim often said, “Show your talents to the fullest.”

“Basically, the players were intimidated by the lack of international experience due to COVID-19,” says a team official. Even before the tournament started, Coach Kim told the players not to be intimidated by the opponent’s name value, but to play the game scenarios according to what they wanted to do and what they wanted to show. I think the players did a good job of fulfilling that.”

Central defender Kim Ji-soo (Seongnam FC), who reportedly received a transfer offer from English Premier League side Brentford, is a prime example. Kim is a product of the Seongnam U-15 club and Pungseng High School. Seongnam accompanied Kim and seven other Pungseng players to the 2022 Winter Training Camp. The idea was to train with the adult team to motivate them and check their potential for growth.

During this process, former coach Kim Nam-il saw Kim’s potential and recommended a semi-professional contract to the club. He was most impressed with the way he coordinated the entire defense. He made his debut against Suwon Samsung in May and has been a mainstay ever since, earning the love of his seniors. In the same way, the three Pungseng High School prospects trained together this year, even though the team was relegated to the K League 2 (second division).

The way Seongnam developed Kim Ji-soo was based on pure skill and potential, not on his U-22 duty. This year, with the change to Lee Ki-hyung as coach, Kim saw his playing time diminish due to tactical issues, so he was given the role of starting and defensive leader for the national team.

The better they play, the less sleep Kim gets. His experience at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as the U-23 national team coach is a huge asset. Instead of mitigating risks by cutting off opponents’ attacks from the front, the team’s fast attack and quick decision-making proved to be the key from the group stage to the quarterfinals.

It was a sign of maturity that the then National Strength and Conditioning Committee Chairman Kim Pang Gon (now the head coach of the Malaysia National Football Team) selected Kim after a lengthy interview, giving him high marks for his grasp of modern soccer, clear philosophy, and ability to recruit and communicate with players.

Kim believed in the players’ potential. “Be confident” and “believe in yourself and your teammates” are words that he consistently shouts from the Asian Cup to the World Cup. No matter how you look at it from the outside, as long as you have internal cohesion, you’ll be fine. And when he tells them to let it all out at the World Cup, where their skills are underappreciated because they play fewer minutes for their clubs, they’re doing just that.

Kim hopes that the team will recover well before the quarterfinals against Nigeria to create another surprise. When asked, “There are no players who are not known to the general soccer fans,” he replied, “There will be players who will be known by themselves when the tournament starts. Please look forward to it,” Kim said. The more they play, the more excited they are, and Kim is gaining a great asset: new experience.메이저놀이터

If they make it to the quarterfinals, they’ll get to play two more games, but if they finish in the quarterfinals, Kim’s contract will automatically end. “Just having the opportunity to play is an experience in itself,” said former South Korean soccer legend Cha Bum-geun, the national team coach.

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