Hwang Sun-Hong Ho’s weakness is up front? His teammates know: ‘Jangshin’ Park Jae-Yong-Ahn’s power

As the Chinese Taipei men’s football team looks to win a third consecutive men’s title at the Hangzhou Asian Games in September, their biggest weakness is up front. But the players think differently. They are confident they can be devastating.

Hwang Sun-hong, 55, has only two strikers on his final roster for the Hangzhou Asian Games, Park Jae-yong (23-North Hyundai) and Ahn Jae-joon 메이저놀이터(22-Bucheon FC). Cho Young-wook (24-Gimcheon Sangmu), who has been showing off his goal-scoring prowess in the K League 2 recently, is also capable of playing as a frontline striker, but is classified as a midfielder. It’s hard to see him as a clear-cut ‘number nine’. That leaves Park Jae-yong and Ahn Jae-joon to step up to the plate, but they lack weight and numbers.

Park Jae-yong is a 193cm tall, well-built striker whose strengths lie in his headers and decisiveness. He made his debut for FC Anyang (2nd Division) in 2022 and scored two goals in 19 games that season. This year, he has shown signs of breaking through. He has scored six goals in 18 K League 2 matches, and in two friendlies against China last month, he showed off his powerful shooting and threatening delivery. As a result, Park completed his move to Jeonbuk Hyundai on the 20th of this month. He has been touted as the “next Cho Kyu-sung” due to his physical attributes, the same frontline striker position, and a similar career path from Anyang to Jeonbuk. Park Jae-yong even wore the number 10 shirt worn by Cho Kyu-sung.

The 185cm tall Ahn Jae-jun is also exploding with talent three years after his first team debut. He scored six goals and provided three assists in 14 K League 2 appearances this year. He made his debut for Bucheon in 2021, but failed to score a goal in 19 league appearances. Last year, he scored four goals in 24 games. This year, he has improved. When he gets a goal chance, he doesn’t let it go. He is also a good link-up player, creating chances for his teammates. He is physically strong and has great speed and aggressive movement. He is active and diligent in his movements, allowing him to play both up front and on the flanks.

Coach Hwang Sun-hong. /Photo courtesy of the Korea Football Association

Hwang Eui-jo. /Photo courtesy of the Korean Football Association
In previous Asian Games, frontline strikers have often been selected as wildcards. At the last edition, the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games, Son Heung-min (31, Tottenham) and Hwang Eui-jo (31, Nottingham) were selected as wildcards to lead South Korea to gold. Son had one goal and five assists, while Hwang exploded for nine goals in seven games at the tournament. In 2014 in Incheon, long striker Kim Shin-wook (35-KITCH) joined the team as a wild card.

However, coach Hwang Sun-hong did not select the striker as a wild card. Instead, he chose Baek Seung-ho (26), Park Jin-seop (28-Isang Jeonbuk) and Seol Young-woo (25-Ulsan). All are strong defensive players. Park moves between centre-back and defensive midfield, while Baek Seung-ho is also tasked with protecting the backline. Seol Young-woo plays as a flanker. Some have questioned Hwang’s decision not to select a striker.

Ko Young-joon. /Photo courtesy of the Korea Football Association

The Asian Games squad in an exhibition match against China in June. /Photo courtesy of the Korean Football Association
But the players who have played alongside Park and Ahn feel differently. First and foremost, the two frontline strikers are both tall, so they were expected to have a synergistic effect with the second line. “They’re both long strikers, so they can drop the ball to the second line, and there are a lot of situations where the defence is focused on the strikers, leaving space for the second line,” said national midfielder Ko Young-jun (22-Pohang Steelers).

Coincidentally, the Asian team’s second line of attack is “the strongest ever”. Led by ‘Golden Boy’ Lee Kang-in (22-PSG), it includes Jung Woo-young (24-Stuttgart), Hong Hyun-seok (24-KAA Hent), Song Min-gyu (24-KU), Uhm Won-sang (24-Ulsan), Ko Young-joon and Cho Young-woo. Here’s why we’re looking forward to seeing Park Jae-yong and Ahn Jae-joon play together.

Park Jae-yong. /Photo courtesy of the Korea Football Association

Ahn Jae-joon. /Photo courtesy of the KFA
“I think the quality of the strikers I chose is not inferior,” said Hwang Sun-hong. It’s the coach’s responsibility if we don’t score goals. I want them to be active in the tournament. I will actively help them,” he said, encouraging Park Jae-yong and Ahn Jae-joon.

“I’m honoured to be selected for the Asian Games,” said Ahn Jae-joon, “and I’ll do my best to represent my country. I will give everything I have to offer to help Korea win the title.”

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