The 2022 AFC U23 Asian Cup got underway at the start of June and defending champions South Korea met a budding Vietnam team fresh off their gold medal at the South East Asian Games. This the second game of the group could have seen Korea book their place in the quarter finals but a late come back from Vietnam means it will go down to the wire in Group C. The Koreans had the game seemingly under control after taking the lead halfway through the second half with a goal from FC Seoul striker Cho Young-wook. However, a red card for a second yellow to defensive midfielder Lee Jin-yong but them on the back foot and it was not long after that Vietnam found their equalizer from Hanoi FC player Tien Long Vu. Both sides came close to a winner but in the end the spoils were shared with Vietnam the happier of the two sides as they have the easier fixture in the final game of the group. The tournament itself has been successful in providing a platform for some of the continents best youngsters to gain tournament experience with the likes of Iran’s Kaveh Rezaei and Japan’s Shoya Nakajima going on to becoming full internationals.
- A1 – Very good, could play higher
- A2 – Strong potential to play higher
- B1 – Good, strong player at level
- B2 – Potential to be strong player at level
- C – Average for the level, re-watch
- D – Below average in this match
- Nationality: South Korean
- Date of birth: 09/05/2002
- Current Club: Gwangju FC
- Career: Gwangju FC U18
- Position: Left Inside Forward
- Preferred foot: Right
Eom Ji-sung usually lines up on the left side of a three man attack at club level and the same was the case for this fixture. Although right footed Eom was quite comfortable on his left as well whenever receiving the ball under pressure inside the box or at the byline. The young inside forward wasn’t heavily involved in the team’s build-up but showed a knack for arriving at opportune moments in the box and showed good awareness of space to create opportunites for teammates or himself.
Eom was only given 45 minutes in this game but he was the team’s most threatening player going closeness to opening the scoring on two occasions. Most of Korea’s play came down the opposing right hand flank and Eom had mostly been taking up a position beyond the Vietnamese right back closest to goal but just before half time he held his run back creating space and hit a first time shot from a low cross that produced a top class save from the keeper. He also made the keeper work earlier in the half, again coming in off the left wing to get on the end of a long throw from right back Choi Jun, and once more he was thwarted by the keeper from close range this time.
When involved in build-up he looked comfortable in possession displaying close control throughout and a good first touch, once impressively taking a high ball on his chest under a bit of pressure. Most impressive without doubt was he’s intelligence and awareness of spaces. He was afforded a fair bit of space by the opposition his use of clever scanning allowed him to create overloads on occasion and moving into positions to receive the ball before moving it on quickly to teammates in advanced positions. His best work was definitely done in the opposition half as their wasn’t much on display from a defensive point of view and he did make a few errant passes in his own half but was quick to press after to regain possession.
Rating – B2
A half is not enough to judge Eom fully but his attacking threat and anticipation in attacks was quite impressive, while he can’t be faulted for his touch either. Still at only twenty Eom doesn’t look the strongest physically and could be outcompeted by more aggressive full backs.
- Nationality: South Korean
- Age: 22
- Date of birth: 16/06/2002
- Current Club: LASK
- Career: Ulsan Hyundai, Junors OÖ
- Position: Centre Midfielder
- Preferred foot: left
Hong Hyun-seok has been building his reputation in the LASK midfield this season and is one of the most well-known players at the tournament, alongside compatriot and fellow European-based Lee Kang-in. Hong, like Eom, didn’t play the full ninety minutes but showed great promise off the bench. Hong was an early sub in the 2nd half and had an almost immediate impact setting up the opener goal from the right hand side of the box attracting two Vietnamese defenders moving the ball onto his weaker right foot before squeezing the ball between the two opposing players to find the forward in space and the deadlock was broken. That decisive action was a feature of his passing in the game, which was varied, creative and progressive mostly towards the edge of the box. He immediately took over corners when he came on and delivered a number of consistent balls in but nothing came of them.
Asides from passing, his work rate and understanding of the play ahead of him were impressive features in the thirty minutes on the pitch. He made a number of recoveries in advanced position on the press to set up teammates in the final third. Playing in a slightly more advanced position than he does for his club meant he was less involved in the build-up play but certainly showed enough technical qualities to be very effective in the number eight position.
Rating – B1
A brief glimpse of Hong showed that he is likely one of the best players at this U23 tournament and will more than likely start in the crucial group decider as well as the tournament knockout stage. At club level he had a breakthrough year in the Austrian Bundesliga and will look to cement a place in the LASK starting lineup next season.