“I have to fit in with the team…the most important thing is the team’s performance”
Lee Kang-in (Paris Saint-Germain), who will be key to South Korea’s bid for a third consecutive Asian Games gold medal in men’s soccer, has repeatedly emphasized the importance of the team.
Lee started and played just 36 minutes of the final Group E match of the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games against Bahrain at the Jinhua Sports Center Stadium in Zhejiang, China, on Thursday (8:30 p.m. ET).
Lee, who joined the squad 21 days late after completing his schedule with PSG, showed some light movement but struggled to keep up with the intense pressure from the opposition.
South Korea had already secured a spot in the round of 16 after topping the group, so a win or loss in the final match didn’t matter.
South Korea won 3-0 and finished the group with three wins out of three, but Hwang Sun-hong was more concerned with Lee Kang-in’s adaptation, teamwork, and game sense than the result.
After the game, Lee met with the media in the Mix Zone and said, “I think it was a fun game. It was my first time playing with my teammates, but I think there are many things we need to improve on,” he said, adding, “We will prepare well for the next game and try to win.”
As for his short playing time, he said, “I knew that before the game, so I’m not disappointed. As I said before, the next game is the most important.”
“It’s natural that the more you play, the better you play. The other players have very good abilities and know soccer very well, so I’m looking forward to it,” he said, adding, “We will try to win.”
Lee suffered a left thigh muscle injury with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) last month.
After rehabilitation, he returned to action on Oct. 20 against Dortmund (Germany) in the first leg of the 2023-2024 UEFA Champions League group stage. However, he only played 17 minutes as a substitute, so there’s no guarantee of his full fitness.
Furthermore, the team’s long trip to Jinhua, which included stops in Paris, Incheon, and Hangzhou, could have contributed to fatigue.
“My injury has recovered well,” Lee said of his condition. I will try to show a good performance in the future,” he said, adding, “(Even if) I don’t show a good performance, the most important thing in the competition is the team performance. We will try to win the championship.”
After the Bahrain game, Hwang, who recognizes Lee Kang-in’s skills, said, “I don’t want to say everything, but I think it’s better to let him play a little more freely than in the mold,” adding, “I’m also thinking about the positions he plays a lot. I’m trying to choose according to the situation.”
It seems that the team is planning to trust Lee Kang-in’s skills and abilities and allow him to play more freely instead of putting him in a box.
However, Lee prioritized the team over himself.
“It doesn’t matter where I play or how I play. I have to fit in with the team as much as possible and try to help the team,” he said, adding, “As I said before, I have to help the team and try to create good results.”
Lee is reminiscent of Son Heung-min (Tottenham), who won gold at the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Games five years ago. He is the “last 메이저사이트 piece of the puzzle” who came in as a late addition to the core of the team after playing in the European big leagues.
He is an absolute must for the team to win a third consecutive Asian Games.
“I don’t think so,” Lee said with his characteristic blunt expression.
“The players are looking at the same goal as a team. I’ll do my best to help them reach their goal and be a helpful player.”
“We are grateful that so many people came to the stadium to support us. We will continue to do our best to prepare and show good results and good play. Thank you for your interest and support.”
Their next opponent in the Round of 16 is Group F runner-up Kyrgyzstan. The match will be held on July 27 at 8:30 p.m. at the same venue.