Kim Seung-kyu (Al Shabab), the goalkeeper who played in the stands with his teammates despite being uncomfortable, has left Klinsmann’s Lake.

The Korea Football Association announced on April 22, “Kim Seung-gyu will be released from the team at 11 p.m. today and return home. As soon as he returns home, he will undergo surgery and begin recovery and rehabilitation.”

Kim suffered the unexpected injury before the second match of the 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Qatar Asian Cup 텍사스홀덤 against Jordan. He injured his right knee while playing a game of his own in preparation for the match against Jordan.

The injury was serious. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament. The injury was so severe that it was impossible for him to play the rest of the season with the national team, let alone compete. The national team decided to call up Kim immediately.

Kim stuck by his teammates through the Jordan game, watching the game from a specially set up area, and even coming out to the outdoor stands to cheer them on in the second half when they were down 1-2. When Klinsmann was threatened, he would bite his lip or stare at the ground with a determined expression.

The national team also gave Kim a boost to help him recover. Captain Son Heung-min held up Kim’s jersey after he scored a penalty kick against Jordan.

However, it didn’t completely fill the void left by Kim. Kim Seung-gyu’s departure is devastating. He has started 10 of the 12 A matches since Klinsmann’s arrival. He has been a stalwart in goal for the national team under former coach Paulo Bento.

Kim drew attention for his excellent reflexes early in his career, but he gradually added steady footwork to his game and proved to be a stalwart even when the national team changed coaches. In doing so, he has established himself as one of South Korea’s goalkeepers of choice, keeping 60 clean sheets in 81 A-match appearances.

Kim’s presence has helped ease worries about the No. 1 goalkeeper at every major tournament, including the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, the 2019 Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates, and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

In addition, Kim’s long tenure as the national team’s goalkeeper has allowed him to approach the record for most appearances by a goalkeeper. Kim’s 81 A-match appearances are tied for the second-most by a South Korean goalkeeper in history, behind Lee Un-jae (133). Barring an upset, he is expected to move past Lee into sole possession of second place by the end of the 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup in Qatar.

Kim Seung-gyu was solid in goal for the South Korean national team in their Group E match against Bahrain on July 15. Despite conceding one goal, he made one crucial save to secure a 3-1 victory. The goalkeeper’s buildup was excellent, with 14 of his 16 passes being successful. He was also applauded for his wide coverage radius, which allowed him to break up a Bahraini attack that was aimed at the back of the defense.

Kim Seung-gyu’s absence will not be easy to fill as he has been working with the current main defense for a long time. In the game against Jordan, which was played without Kim Seung-kyu, Cho Hyun-woo took over the reins, but was disappointed with two goals. There was a big difference in the buildup, which is Kim’s strength. At one point in the second half, he even made a mistake with a pass.

Still, Cho Hyun-woo emerged as a star goalkeeper at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where he protected Shin Tae-yong-ho and played a key role in the “Miracle in Kazan” victory over then-FIFA No. 1 Germany. He is the best goalkeeper in Korea, having been named to the K League’s Best Eleven for seven consecutive seasons from 2017 to 2023.

Meanwhile, the KFA hastily called up Kim Jun-hong, a former Gimcheon Commerce goalkeeper, to replace Kim Seung-gyu. At last year’s U-20 World Cup, Kim made a number of good saves to help Korea reach the quarterfinals. His performance earned him a spot on the Klinsmann Cup squad in September and October last year.

“As the tournament is still quite far away, it is difficult to train with two goalkeepers, so we have called up Kim Jun-hong, who was called up for the European tournament in September and the A match in October last year, as a training partner,” the KFA said.

“Kim will arrive in Doha, Qatar, at around 5 a.m. tomorrow to join the national team. However, he will not be listed on the competition roster as he was called up as a practice partner and not as a substitute. He will not sit in the technical seats on game days, but will be in the stands.”

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