The ‘just in case’ expectations were dashed. There was no place for In Ji-kyu (33-Ulsan Hyundai). His name was nowhere to be found on the 25-man roster for the national team’s two September European tours to Wales and Saudi Arabia.
This is nothing new. Despite his consistent performances, Lee hasn’t been called up to the national team. Following former Portugal coach Paulo Bento, who took over the reins of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) national team after leading South Korea to the round of 16 at the 2022 Qatar World Cup, Jürgen Klinsmann (Germany) has also shunned him.
His record is impressive. Lee In-gyu has scored 130 goals in his K League career. In a Jeju United jersey, he was the top scorer in the K League 1 in 2021 (22 goals) and followed that up with 17 goals in 2022. His performance this season with Ulsan was equally impressive. With 13 goals in 26 games, he is tied for the top scorer with Thiago (Daejeon Hana Citizens). In particular, he scored multiple goals against FC Seoul in the 28th round of the Hana One Q K League 1 2023 at the Seoul World Cup Stadium on September 27, a day before the national team roster was announced, to raise his hopes of being selected for the national team.
The atmosphere was not bad either. Cho Kyu-sung (Mitwillan) and Oh Hyun-gyu (Celtic) have not played recently due to injuries, and Hwang Eui-jo (Nottingham) is completely out of contention for a place in the team, so his fitness and feel are not good. Furthermore, the September and October A-Match series is a great opportunity for the national team to have a Plan B in place. We don’t need to go all out against Saudi Arabia in Newcastle, England, next month on Sept. 13 and Vietnam in October at home. Rather than mobilizing the best members of the squad, there are many voices calling for a wider pool of strikers for the Asian qualifiers for the 2026 North and Central American World Cup in November and the Asian Cup in Qatar early next year.
Luckily, In Jong-kyu is downbeat. “My expectations are about 0.1 percent. I’ve already been hurt (by repeated expectations and disappointments). I gave up a long time ago,” he said. This time, the sad premonition was not wrong. Klinsmann, who has been criticized for his lengthy stays abroad, stuck to his guns, as is his custom. Injuries and inconsistency don’t seem to be a problem for the ‘Klinsmann Ho’ coaching staff, which has gone 2-2 since its inception.
Lee In-gyu is not disappointed. As usual, he is immersed in team training and doing his best every day. He doesn’t have time to dwell on the fact that he scored the same number of goals as Cho Kyu-sung (then of Jeonbuk) last season and narrowly missed out on the top scorer’s title due to the number of games he played and Ulsan’s second consecutive league title.
This year, he has another task on his plate. Maintaining a rhythm with Martin Adam (Hungary) in terms of playing time. Ulsan coach Hong Myung-bo doesn’t like to play them together. As he adapts to the different environment from the past, where he played the full 90 minutes, Lee is growing. “I’m always learning,” he said. (It’s a meaningful time because I’m in the process of finding the answer to how to take care of my body. I will play more eagerly and with more determination.” 온라인바카라