Lee Kang-in (22, Paris Saint-Germain) rescued South Korea from a corner with a tremendous performance. He’s only in his early 20s, but he showed calm finishing and movement in a big tournament. You’d think he’d be nervous, but he wasn’t. Even after the game, he was overwhelmed by his multi-goal performance and said, “If the team is scoring goals, the striker has to score.”
The Korean national team defeated Bahrain 3-1 in their first match of Group E at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup 2023 at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Qatar at 8:30 p.m. (KST) on Friday.
They needed to win their first match to win the Asian Cup in 64 years. Anything that could go wrong in the first game could go wrong in the second, the final group game, and beyond to the knockout stage of the tournament. With a clean six points after the second game, it would be beneficial for the championship race to look away from the final group stage.
Klinsmann pulled out his best cards, minus Hwang Hee-chan and Kim Jin-soo, who are focused on recovering from injuries. Cho Kyu-sung will be the main man up front, with Lee Kang-in, Son Heung-min, Lee Jae-sung, and Hwang In-beom providing firepower.
Bahrain tried to stop Korea’s attack with a counterattack in the back and hit the space behind them. Lee Kang-in was on the ball on the right flank, but they were unable to create much of an attack in the first half. Bahrain’s tight defense made it hard to see any gaps. Even when Lee sent in fierce crosses, his teammates’ next moves were limited.
Hwang In-beom broke through with a first-half goal, but Bahrain equalized. The unexpected goal, which was not part of Korea’s game plan, could have brought down the spirits. However, Lee Kang-in rattled the Bahraini net with his crunch time performance.
It was the 11th minute of the second half when South Korea lost the ball on the flank and transitioned to a counterattack. Lee Kang-in picked up the ball outside the box and cut inside. After taking his time, he found a gap and fired a cannonball-like shot. The shot curved in from the outside of the box and beat the Bahraini goalkeeper.
Lee wasn’t satisfied with one goal. Thirteen minutes after his goal, he threw cold water on Bahrain’s chase with a tremendous play. He picked up the ball in the box and with the Bahraini defense clinging to him, he fooled two or three defenders with a calm body-painting move and then rattled the net with a half-beat quick shot.
Bahrain lost momentum after Lee Kang-in’s two tremendous left-footed strikes. Needing an equalizer, they could no longer close the defensive gap. Instead, the Korean offense came alive and pushed Bahrain until the final whistle, securing three valuable points and their first win.
In the post-match interview, Lee Kang-in was ecstatic about his multi-goal performance. “We always play the way we want to play, whether the team is conceding or scoring goals. If the team concedes a goal, the striker has to score,” he replied in a cool way.
Despite his multi-goal performance and man-of-the-match honors, he was looking ahead. “There were some good things and some bad things today, but I will try to show better performance and content in the next match,” Lee said, “I will do my best to prepare for the Jordan match. Thank you for your support and interest.”