‘Link-up King’ Lee Young-joon + ‘Fantasy Star’ Bae Joon-ho’s competitiveness, the future of Korean football in Argentina

Youngjun Lee (Gimcheon Commerce) and Junho Bae (Daejeon Hana Citizen). Kim Eun-jung-ho’s biggest harvest in Argentina.

Lee Young-joon and Bae Joon-ho of the U-20 national soccer team have been two of the standout performers at the ongoing FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023 in Argentina, leading South Korea to the quarterfinals. The striker scored goals against France in the group stage and against Ecuador in the Round of 16. Bae Jun-ho was the hero in the win over Ecuador with a goal and an assist.

Lee Young-joon is a long striker who stands at 190 centimeters. He made his professional debut for Suwon FC in 2021 while still in high school, becoming the youngest player to make a debut since the inception of the K League 1.

In fact, the striker was Kim Eun-jung’s biggest concern as U-20 national team coach. When Kim Eun-joong arrived last year, the consensus among soccer officials was that there was no reliable frontline striker in this age group. This was frustrating for Kim, who was once the top scorer in the K League during his time.

Still, Kim recognized Lee’s talent and kept giving him chances and utilizing him as the main striker. As a result, Lee continued to improve. After joining the Korean Armed Forces Athletic Corps this year, he built up his upper body muscles and gained international-level physicality. In fact, he plays virtually every game full-time and has the stamina to lead the front line. He’s always had good ball touch, technique, and passing, but he’s also developed the ability to take on tough defenders and win. He is especially good at linking up with his teammates, earning him the nickname “The Link-up King.

Striker is a position that is in short supply at any age. If Lee develops steadily, he has the potential to follow in the footsteps of Hwang Eui-jo (FC Seoul) and Cho Kyu-sung (Jeonbuk Hyundai).

If Lee Young-joon is a player who has gone from question mark to exclamation point, Bae Jun-ho has been considered the best player in his age group since his high school days. Even before he graduated from high school, he had already received interest from multiple K League 1 clubs and was being tried out. After a fierce competition, Bae headed to Daejeon, and last year he proved his potential by playing consistently in the K League 2. This year, he showed that he can play in the K League 1 as well, and he has become a favorite among professional soccer fans.

Bae Jun-ho is what we call a “fantasy star” player. He doesn’t need to do anything fancy, but his fundamentals are so good that his simple touches and clever individual skills mean he rarely loses the ball to his opponents. He doesn’t look strong, 메이저놀이터 but his physicality is already at a high level. He doesn’t keep the ball for long, but anyone who knows how to watch soccer can easily see his value. His passive play was his only flaw, but against Ecuador, he used his individuality to create something out of nothing. He shone most brightly with his creative and exquisite passes that set up Lee Young-joon’s goal, as well as his hands-on work. An injury suffered just before the tournament slowed him down in the group stage, but he proved his worth in the knockout rounds.

Bae usually plays on the left flank, but he can also play in the center or on the right. His versatility makes him a very versatile player. Although he is still young (born in 2003), Bae is considered to be a talent that could reach the national team in the next year or two. European scouts continue to show interest in him.