Captain Lee Seung-won, who led Kim Eun-joong’s semifinal myth, completed the ‘Cinderella Story’. As a Korean player, he set a new record for the most attack points by a Korean player in a competition organized by the International Football Federation (FIFA), and also held the honor of the Under 20 (U-20) World Cup Bronze Ball.

In the 2023 U-20 World Cup 3rd and 4th place match held at La Plata Stadium in Argentina on June 12 (Korean time), Lee Seung-won took a penalty kick from Bae Jun-ho as a kicker in the 24th minute when Korea was trailing 0-1 against Israel. He then succeeded and scored the equalizer. However, Korea unfortunately lost to Israel 1-3 and ended the tournament in 4th place.메이저놀이터

Lee Seung-won recorded a total of 3 goals and 4 assists in this tournament. Lee Kang-in, who won the Golden Ball (MVP) by leading Korea to runner-up in the 2019 Polish tournament, surpassed 2 goals and 4 assists, breaking the record for the most attack points (7) by a Korean player in the U-20 World Cup and FIFA tournaments and making a new history. wrote.

Overcoming the misfortune of ‘toe fracture’,

the under-20 World Cup team led by coach Kim Eun-joong was considered the ‘valley generation’ that did not receive much attention and expectations, unlike Jeong Yong-ho four years ago, even before this tournament. There were numerous cases where most of the players did not get a proper opportunity to play in their team. However, based on the unique one-team spirit and practical soccer, they defeated world-class powerhouses and established a great history of making the semifinals of the U-20 World Cup for the second consecutive time following the runner-up in the last tournament.

‘Ace’ Lee Seung-won, who was at the center of it, was also close to being completely unknown until this tournament. Lee Seung-won is being compared to Lee Kang-in, who was two years his senior and Jung Yong-ho’s ace at the 2019 Poland U-20 Championship, in terms of his position, playing style, weight and performance in the U-20 national team.

However, there was a huge difference in recognition and status between Lee Kang-in of four years ago and Lee Seung-won of this year. Lee Kang-in, who was called a “soccer genius” at the time, even made his debut as a member of Valencia in Spain’s La Liga, a prestigious European big league team, and was already a promising player receiving global attention. On the other hand, Lee Seung-won was close to unknown even among domestic soccer fans.

Lee Seung-won started to attract attention by winning the best player award at the 2021 National High School Competition while he was in his third year at Deokyeong High School. That year, he was offered a direct promotion to a professional team, but it was canceled after experiencing the misfortune of breaking his toe while participating in the National Sports Festival in October. Afterwards, Lee Seung-won entered Dankook University and tried to make a comeback, and in early January of this year, he was noticed by Gangwon FC and succeeded in joining his professional team.

However, his professional wall was high. Lee Seung-won has yet to make his official professional debut in the K-League. Throughout the first half of the 2023 season, Lee Seung-won was a member of the Gangwon B team and only played in the 4th division and was not called up to the first team. Not only Lee Seung-won, but most of the key players Kim Eun-jung-ho were not much different.

Head coach Kim Eun-joong chose practical soccer to overcome the inferiority of power ahead of this U-20 tournament, attacking the opponent’s loopholes with quick air-defense conversions and counterattacks even if the market share fell. And it was Lee Seung-won who was chosen as the playmaker who would serve as the core of Kim Eun-jung-ho’s midfield and lead the attack.

Lee Seung-won, who was the first U-20 player in the national team by age group, was even nominated as the captain.

Lee Seung- won lived up to coach Kim Eun-joong’s expectations by playing the role of holding the central axis of the team with stable passing and outstanding game coordination ability, maintaining the balance of offense and defense while running nonstop based on active amount of activity in the midfield. The in part was, of course, his ability as a ‘dead ball specialist’. Lee Seung-won played as Kim Eun-joong’s exclusive kicker throughout the tournament, scoring two goals from direct penalties and assisting four goals from set pieces (three corner kicks and one free kick) to help his teammates score. Six of his seven offensive points were created from static dead ball situations. The other goal was a through pass in a counterattack situation and finished. Based on Seung-Won Lee’s performance, Korea was able to maximize practical soccer, which reversed the flow with a single shot at every decisive moment, while losing share to strong teams in every game.

Lee Seung-won standing shoulder to shoulder with world-class prospects

▲ Lee Seung-won ‘I’m the hero of the equalizer’ Lee Seung- won in the first half match between Korea and Italy in the semifinals of the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup held at La Plata Stadium in Argentina on the afternoon of the 8th (local time). He is happy after scoring the equalizer.
ⓒ Yonhap News

It is also highly praised that he showed consistent performance throughout the tournament. From the first game of the tournament, Seung-Won Lee led the team to victory against strong France, recording one goal and one assist. He recorded an assist against Honduras in the second leg. The only match in which Seung-Won Lee failed to score an offensive point was against Gambia in the final group stage match, which ended in a 0-0 draw, and Korea had already qualified for the round of 16 at the time.

Lee Seung-won also played a big role in the tournament. In the round of 16 against Ecuador and against Nigeria in the quarterfinals, he provided set-piece assists. In the quarterfinals against Italy and Israel, he scored on penalties, although he lost. Although he did not have the flashy individual skill and passing ability of Lee Kang-in, it is evaluated that he created a synergistic effect by utilizing his teammates in the right place based on simple and efficient team play and excellent tactical digestion. Lee Seung-won showed a humble reaction to the comparison with Lee Kang-in, saying, “It is an honor to be called that way.”

Lee Seung-won became the second Korean player ever to win an individual award at the U20 World Cup, following Lee Kang-in, who received the Golden Ball (contest MVP) in Poland four years ago. Now, four years later, Lee Kang-in has grown into a top-class player recognized in Europe through his outstanding performance in Mallorca. Striker Cesare Casaday (Italy, Chelsea), who won the Golden Ball-Golden Boot (top scorer) in this tournament, and center back Alan Maturo (Uruguay, Genoa), who won the Silver Ball, are all considered top-class prospects on the European stage. It is significant that Lee Seung-won stood shoulder to shoulder with world-class prospects by winning the Bronze Ball.

However, compared to them, Lee Seung-won, who is still only a K-4 clerk, has to face the cold reality again when he returns to Korea. When he returns to his team, Gangwon FC, fierce competition for survival awaits him to take his place in the first team. Unfortunately, it is unclear how much opportunity they will be able to give to a promising player like Lee Seung-won, given the circumstances of Gangwon, which is competing to remain in the relegation zone this season.

Athletes grow only when they are given the opportunity to run stably. The experience and reputation gained through his performance in the U-20 World Cup will be a great asset to Seung-Won Lee. Lee Seung-won can be recognized as a true Cinderella only when he can continue to perform steadily on his professional stage.

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