The conversation between Hwang Seon-hong, coach of the Asian Games national soccer team, and ‘key man’ Lee Kang-in (Paris Saint-Germain) did not stop.스포츠토토

Coach Hwang and Lee Kang-in sat side by side on the Korean side’s bench and communicated for a long time ahead of the second match of Group E of the men’s soccer group stage of the Hangzhou Asian Games against Thailand held at Jinhua Stadium in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China, at 8:30 pm (Korean time) on the 21st.

Lee Kang-in entered Hangzhou through Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport at 2 p.m. on this day, went straight to the team dormitory, unpacked his luggage, and boarded the team bus. Lee Kang-in appeared at the stadium around 7:50, 40 minutes before the game started. Lee Kang-in, standing at the back of the players lined up, stepped onto the grass while chatting with his ‘best friends’ Cho Young-wook (Gimcheon) and Song Min-gyu (Jeonbuk). It did not mean participating in the game. Lee Kang-in was alone wearing the national team track top. Lee Kang-in waved his hand and greeted the Korean fans who were cheering for Korea and Lee Kang-in.

Then Coach Hwang, who was sitting on the bench, called Lee Kang-in. The two talked about ‘unfinished business’ for over 15 minutes. Coach Hwang seemed to be talking about the national team’s tactics and Lee Kang-in’s role with both hands. Lee Kang-in rubbed his eyes as if he was tired, but listened to Director Hwang.

Director Hwang and Lee Kang-in met through many twists and turns. Coach Hwang regarded Lee Kang-in as a key resource for the national team at this Asian Games. However, the issue of being called up had to be resolved with his team, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). PSG showed difficulty in Lee Kang-in’s early selection. The condition was set on the timing of selection for the Qatar Asian Cup, which will be held in January next year. The idea was to delay participation in the Asian Cup instead of sending them to the Asian Games, which are not FIFA-sanctioned competitions and have no obligation to be selected. In a media interview, Director Hwang expressed his feelings of “frustration” because Lee Kang-in’s joining schedule was not confirmed.

The sun came only on the 15th, a day before departure from Hangzhou. The association announced that the selection date and schedule have been confirmed. On the 20th, traffic was arranged to participate in the European Champions League against Dortmund and then join the national team in Hangzhou. Lee Kang-in, who successfully returned from injury after a month by appearing in the second half of the match against Dortmund, entered Hangzhou Airport with a bright expression. He promised to the fans who came out to meet him, “I will work hard.”

After finishing his conversation with Director Hwang, Lee Kang-in took his seat in the stands. Lee Kang-in, who watched his teammates defeat Kuwait 9-0 on TV and then play against Thailand, is expected to play in the final group match against Bahrain to be held at the same stadium on the 24th at the earliest. Korea, who previously defeated Kuwait 9-0, will advance to the round of 16 as first place in the group regardless of the remaining games if they win on this day. If that happens, it is highly likely that Lee Kang-in’s introduction will be postponed until after the round of 16.

When we met at the Hangzhou Sports Center stadium where the Japan-Qatar match was held on the 20th, KBS soccer commentator Lee Young-pyo said, “Lee Kang-in will play as hard as he can in the Asian Games (where military exemption is at stake),” and said there is no need to worry too much about motivation. He also said that there is no doubt that Lee Kang-in’s chance-making ability and finishing ability will be of great help to Hwang Sun-hong.

Defender Choi Jun (Busan), who took second place with ‘youngest brother’ Lee Kang-in at the 2019 U-20 World Cup, showed absolute trust, saying, “Kang-in is watching everything. We just need to move well.” Defender Lee Jae-ik (E-Land) also said, “Kang-in will do whatever he asks.”

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