Lee Soon-min, who went to the national team for the first time in his life, said, “I saw a hope of being on the same line as European players.”

Lee Soon-min shares his thoughts on playing his first national team match.

Gwangju FC defeated FC Seoul 1-0 in the Hana OneQ K League 1 2023 at Seoul World Cup Stadium on Sunday (July 17). Heo Yul’s goal in the fourth minute of the first half was protected throughout the match to solidify their third place in the league (48 points).

Lee earned his first national team call-up at the A-League in September. He came on as a substitute in both the Wales and Saudi Arabia matches and made his debut under the Korean flag.

Lee Soon-min (Gwangju FC). Seo Hyung-kwon

Lee Soon-min showed his tireless stamina by playing full-time for Gwangju just three days after returning from England. He helped build up the offense by acting as an attacking link, while his precise positioning and dedicated defense helped the team keep a clean sheet.

Lee’s mental strength was the key to maintaining his fitness after returning home. “Actually, I feel like I’m playing at 3 a.m. right now,” he told reporters in the post-match mix zone, “but I think it’s more about the mindset than the body, so I tried not to think about that in this game, even though I was tired and exhausted,” he said, adding that he focused on preparing and thinking as usual.

For Lee, everything about the national team was a new experience. From meeting and training with his teammates to talking to the national team coach and adapting to different tactics than his home team, he learned a lot.

Lee Sun-min (South Korea men’s national soccer team). Courtesy of the Korea Football Association

One of the highlights was meeting Son Heung-min. “Everything was an episode,” Lee said. When I went downstairs to have breakfast, Heung-min was cooking in front of me, and I was impressed by that,” he said. “He took care of me so well when I first went. He told me to talk to him anytime if I needed anything, and I felt like everything was solved just by listening to him,” he said, adding that Son Heung-min’s presence was amazing.

In response to a question about who he became close with, he said, “Everyone treated me well, and I got to know a lot of K League players while living with them. Hyun Woo-hyung took care of me a lot, and I’m the same age as Hyun-beom and Seung-hyun, so they helped me a lot, too.”

Jürgen Klinsmann played Lee in a slightly higher position than he did in Gwangju for the two European matches, which led to criticism that Lee’s strengths were not being fully utilized and that Klinsmann was playing the wrong player.

Lee Soon-min of the South Korea men’s national soccer team. Courtesy of the Korea Football Association온라인바카라

But it was a necessary adjustment. “Inbum hadn’t had a good preseason, so he was expecting me to play the full 90 minutes, so I think he wanted me to come on in the second half and be a little more stable and provide a lot of help on the defensive end,” Lee said.

“I had a face-to-face meeting with Coach Klinsmann and we talked a lot, so I was able to hear what he was looking for and why he picked me. He told me that he wanted me to press, bother, and harass the opponent more on the field, and that the national team needs a lot of that,” Lee said, adding that he asked her to play tough.

“He emphasized energy a lot. He emphasized that when we pass the ball to the front in transition or build-up from the back, we need to be the link in the middle so that the team can go up.”

Lee acknowledged that the national team experience was an important turning point in his soccer career. First of all, “I felt a lot from the overseas trip itself. I was influenced a lot by the environment. We trained and played as a team with really good players. The opponents were all representing their countries, and some of them were in the Premier League, so there was something that I really felt when I was playing, not in a written sense, but in an emotional sense,” he said, explaining that there was something direct about facing European players.

It gave her confidence. “I realized that foreign players are really good, but I’m not at a level that I can’t reach. I saw a lot of hope that I could be in the same position and on the same line as them if I tried a little harder.”

To do so, Lee reiterated that they need to be more humble and work from where they are. “I need to be more humble. Instead of being arrogant, I saw hope that if I knew my shortcomings and made up for them, I could definitely do better. At this point, I need to be humble and focus on the things I need to work on,” he said, expressing his desire to do better in Gwangju.

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