Every now-and-then a manager or scout spots something in a player that nobody else notices. South Korean National Team manager Uli Stielike surprised everybody with his inclusion of Lee Jung-Hyub in his squad for the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia.
Prior to that tournament, Lee had only scored seven times in his senior career, but Stielike was impressed by his movement off the ball, and decided to keep close tabs on the player before including him in the squad ahead of the former Arsenal and Monaco striker Park Chu-Young.
His selection was a shock to many, despite Park’s poor form and South Korea’s lack of striking options, there were still plenty of strikers who were more prolific than Lee Jung-Hyub. Stielike, however went one further, and brought him to Australia not just as a squad player, but as a member of the starting eleven.
His decision paid dividends when Lee scored the only goal of the game in the group match against Australia. He scored again in the semi-final with a header against Iraq as South Korea won 2-0 to set up a rematch with hosts Australia in the final. South Korea lost the final 2-1 after extra time, but Lee made a name for himself and continued to earn call-ups for the national team.
The 23 year-old started his career at Busan I-Park before joining Sangju Sangmu in 2014 as part of his mandatory national service. The side were relegated from the K-League last season, but are currently top of the K-League Challenge, South Korea’s second tier.
He has scored six this season for Sangju, including a goal in the two-one win against Gangwon at the end of May and a hat-trick in the 4-2 win against Gyeongnam on June 3rd.
When he finishes his military service at the end of this season, he is sure to attract interest from other clubs in the K-League and abroad.
Written by Steven Price
Check out more of his work on everything South Korean football at the excellent K-League Footy
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