South Korea boss Paulo Bento had commentators quaking in their boots on Thursday as he named an entire back four and a goalkeeper with the same surname. The high-flying Asian outfit are in one of the toughest World Cup groups with Uruguay, Ghana and Portugal all vying to make it to the knockout stages.
Bento’s side come into the tournament in a rich vein of form, having only lost one of their last nine matches. Big wins over Chile and Egypt are included in that run, while consecutive warm-up victories over Cameroon and Iceland gave them another confidence boost in time for Qatar.
The South Korea boss, who has managed the likes of Portugal and Sporting Lisbon, has been in charge since 2018 and is well aware of his best XI. It just so happens that it includes an entire defence and goalkeeper with the surname ‘Kim’, which is enough to confuse commentators and onlookers alike.
Before kick-off against Uruguay on Thursday, Al-Shabab stopper Seung-gyu Kim was named in goal behind a centre-back pairing of Young-gwon Kim and Napoli star Min-jae Kim.
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Tottenham ace Heung-min Son remains South Korea’s talisman with 35 goals in 104 international appearances. His numbers haven’t set the Premier League alight this campaign with five goal contributions in 13 matches, but his national team were left sweating regardless when he came off against Marseille in the Champions League earlier this month with what turned out to be a fracture around his left eye.
Son has been training with a protective eye mask ever since and it wasn’t until Bento’s pre-match press conference this week that South Korean fans were properly updated on the forward’s fitness. “Sonny can play. Yes he will be able to play,” explained the manager before naming the Spurs star on the left flank.
“I think the fact that he would be wearing a mask is not an inconvenience for him. It is rather natural for him. We have stuck to the plan since we arrived here and also the way we integrated him into our group shows it has been natural.
“We will see tomorrow how it will be. Our hope is he will feel comfortable to the greatest extent possible and we’ll use the best strategy so he will feel at ease during the game.”