Mid-career position switch gives defender once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

DOHA– When South Korean football player Kim Moon-hwan was asked by his club coach five years ago to switch positions from midfielder to defender, he never thought the change would lead to the opportunity of a lifetime.

Kim, 27, made the South Korean team for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar as a fulllback. With head coach Paulo Bento having gone through multiple options in the right fullback position with varying degrees of success, the door remains wide open for Kim to grab the starting job.
“I think changing positions has helped me a great deal,” Kim said Friday at a press conference before South Korea’s training session at Al Egla Training Site in Doha. “I never once thought I’d make it to the World Cup in my new position.”

Kim made the career-altering switch while with Busan IPark under head coach Cho Jin-ho, who died of heart attack in October 2017.

“Back in 2017, he told me, ‘You should go play at the World Cup at least once in your career,'” Kim recalled. “And I think this is an opportunity that I will never have again.”

Kim made his international debut in Bento’s first match for South Korea in September 2018 and has gone on to earn 21 more caps since. The coach always has time for versatile players, like Kim, who can also handle the left fullback position despite being right-footed.

But there still seems to be a bit of an attacking midfielder mindset in Kim, who can help create offense from the right side but can be vulnerable against physical attackers at the other end. At 173 centimeters, Kim is tied with three others as the smallest players for South Korea.

However, Kim thinks he can more than compensate for his lack of brute strength.

“I can cover a lot of ground with my speed and energy,” Kim said. “I’ve been building up nicely since arriving in Qatar (on Monday). The jetlag is almost behind me now and I’ve been trying to be active in training.”

Kim said the coaching staff and the entire defense corps have been trying to devise effective strategies against the high-octane offenses of Uruguay and Portugal, two of South Korea’s Group H opponents.

“For us, our positioning on ball pressure will be the key,” Kim said. “We want to be as efficient as possible.”

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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