Out-of-form Klinsmann’s frontline striker Cho Kyu-sung is back in action. After struggling at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) 2023 Asian Cup in Qatar, the South Korean forward has laced up his boots and vowed to make a difference at the tournament.
Cho Kyu-sung has played in all three group stage matches of the tournament. He has been in the starting lineup for three consecutive games. He partnered with Son Heung-min at the forefront of South Korea’s attack, but struggled. He failed to score in three consecutive games and was subbed out.
He’s faced a lot of criticism. He failed to score a goal as the team’s main striker. As South Korea struggled in the group stages, the chorus of voices against Cho Kyu-sung, who was expected to be the main striker, grew louder.
Indeed, it was a disappointing performance. He missed several crucial chances in the first group game against Bahrain and the second against Jordan. He also took some ridiculous shots from right in front of goal. He was better in the third game against Malaysia, scoring a nice header, but was unable to add to his tally.
Cho Kyu-sung himself is well aware of his recent struggles with the national team. Despite this, he hasn’t seemed to take the criticism too seriously. He has made it clear that he will only focus on the game, even in the face of bitter comments about his appearance on entertainment programs and his long hair. “I have to do well,” he said in an interview. There is no pressure,” he said in an interview, adding, “I don’t care about the criticism of my performance around me.”
He’ll likely start against Saudi Arabia in the round of 16 on Nov. 31. This is because Cho Kyu-sung, despite his poor form, is currently the most reliable frontline attacker for Klinsmann’s men. Hwang Eui-jo’s personal issues prevented him from making the squad, and Oh Hyun-gyu doesn’t have much experience. In the end, Cho Kyu-sung will need to be the fixer that he says he is in order for the national team’s performance to really take off.
Cho has good memories against Saudi Arabia. On September 13 last year, he scored the winning goal in a friendly against Saudi Arabia at St. James’ Park in Newcastle, England, to give the Klinsmanns a 1-0 victory. He scored the winning goal in the 32nd minute with a high header. At the time, South Korea hadn’t won since Jürgen Klinsmann took over as head coach, with three draws and two losses. Cho Kyu-sung scored the decisive goal to give Klinsmann his first win.
South Korea was on a roll after the exhibition match against Saudi Arabia. They had won six straight games before the Asian Cup and extended their winning streak to seven with a victory over Bahrain, but they lost 2-2 to Jordan and 3-3 to Malaysia. It will be interesting to see if Cho Kyu-sung can seize the opportunity in the round of 16 against Saudi Arabia and score a goal to save Klinsmann once again.