South Korean forward Kim Gun-hee (R) trains with coach Felipe Coelho at Cornelia Diamond Football Center in Antalya, Turkey, on last Thursday, in this photo provided by the Korea Football Association. (Korea Football Association)
South Korean forward Kim Gun-hee thought he had his first senior international goal last Saturday against Iceland, only to have the marker wiped off by a questionable offside call.
There was no video assistant referee (VAR) in the friendly match at Mardan Sports Complex in Antalya, Turkey, and the game continued without a review. Television replays showed, however, that it was a borderline call at best that could have gone Kim's way.
Kim was playing in his first match for South Korea as a second-half substitute. In their 5-1 victory, South Korea had four different players get their first international goal. Kim could well have joined the group but he understands it takes more than just skill to score the first goal in the first match.
"I had friends who offered to track down that official," Kim said with a smile in an interview clip shared by the Korea Football Association (KFA) on Wednesday. Kim has been training with the national team in Turkey since Jan. 9.
"But referees can make mistakes, and you need to be lucky to be able to score your first goal in your very first match," Kim said. "It's too bad we didn't have VAR there. I think this is going to stay with me for a while."
Kim played an otherwise solid match but the 26-year-old was tough on himself.
"I tried to cover as much ground as possible and help out on defense, but I don't think I played particularly well," Kim said. "I didn't play enough minutes to be evaluated properly. I am happy that I finally got to play for the national team, but I'd give myself maybe 50 or 60 points (out of 100)."
Kim earned his first national team callup in November last year, with Bento praising Kim's ability to adapt himself to the national team's style of play. Kim said he likes to have the ball at his feet and play an active role in offensive buildups, characteristics that make him well suited for Bento's bread-and-butter tactics.
Kim has flashed some offensive chops for his K League side, Suwon Samsung Bluewings, and he said national team coaches have implored him to take care of the defensive side as well.
"Coaches here have told me they're happy with what I can do offensively and said I can do whatever I want on that end," Kim said. "And they said I should sacrifice myself on defense and apply strong pressure. They think I could become an even better player that way."
Kim said trying to contribute on both sides of the ball has been challenging.
"I would like to be more efficient on defense without compromising what I can do on offense," he said. "I've made some mistakes here and there and I am still learning."
Kim is one of 25 K League players at camp in Turkey. South Korea will play Moldova on Friday and Bento will make a few cuts before resuming their World Cup qualifying campaign with some usual suspects from Europe back in the mix.
Kim may not survive that roster crunch but he wasn't thinking that far ahead just yet.
"If I get into the game against Moldova, I would love to score and create opportunities," Kim said. "I will try to stick around here as long as I can and continue to learn from my teammates." (Yonhap)