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Bento: Versatility the key for Taeguk Warriors

Wednesday, August 28, 2019
Paulo Bento - AFP

Seoul: Korea Republic head coach Paulo Bento believes his players' ability to take on multiple positions will carry the team a long way in their FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Asian Qualifiers Round 2 campaign next month.

Bento unveiled his 26-man roster on Monday and will use the friendly against Georgia on September 5 as a tune-up before they play Turkmenistan in their opening Qualifiers' tie five days later.

Korea Republic will also face Lebanon, DPR Korea and Sri Lanka in Group H, as they seek to qualify for their 10th consecutive FIFA World Cup.

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The game against Georgia in Istanbul will be Korea Republic’s first friendly against an European nation since Bento took charge last fall and the Portuguese can bank on a dozen midfielders to take on different positions in attack.

"I think our positional versatility is our biggest strength," Bento said.

"Many of our attacking players can play as wing forwards, shadow strikers or forwards. Because we have so many options, we can make tactical adjustments and changes during matches."

Captain Son Heung-min, scoring stalwart for Tottenham Hotspur, is listed as a midfielder, but he has played as a featured striker in Bento's scheme. He can also play as a wing forward or an attacking midfielder.

Son thrived as a striker alongside Hwang Ui-jo in a friendly against Colombia in March, when he ended a nine-month international goal drought.

Making his way back into the squad is Shanghai Greenland Shenhua’s Kim Shin-wook, who has has been on fire in the Chinese Super League since leaving his K League 1 club Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in July.

"We'll see how well Kim can fit into our system, but at the same time, we as a team have to find the right combination that will help Kim maximise his skills," Bento said.

"He's obviously a different type of forward than the ones we selected previously. My job is to make whatever decisions that I think can help the team."

Completing Korea Republic’s forward line is new French league striker Hwang, who left Japan to sign with Bordeaux in the Ligue 1.

The 27-year-old scored his first goal in France last Saturday and leads all players with seven goals in 16 matches on Bento's watch.

9월 친선경기-월드컵 2차 예선에 참가하는 남자 축구국가대표팀 명단을 공개합니다!✨

🇰🇷v🇬🇪#조지아 09.05(목) 22:30(한국시간)
📺 KBS 2TV 🏟 터키파티흐테림스타디움
✔월드컵 2차 예선
🇰🇷v🇹🇲#투르크메니스탄 09.10(화) 23:00(한국시간)
📺 미정 🏟 투르크메니스탄 코페트다그스타디움

— 대한축구협회(KFA) (@theKFA) August 26, 2019

Bento's one surprise pick was Ulsan Hyundai's attacking midfielder Lee Dong-gyeong, a 21-year-old who earned his first senior national team call-up. Lee is able to play either as a central midfielder or a winger with equal dexterity, Bento noted.

"He's a highly skilled player who can make quick decisions in tight spaces," the coach said. "He may not have been playing heavy minutes with his club, but regardless of his playing time, we felt he had enough skills and abilities to deserve a spot on the national team."

Sources: Yonhap News Agency, AFP, Korea Football Association

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