One of the most under-the-radar players in the Asian Games soccer team’s run through the group stage and into the round of 16 has been goalkeeper Lee Kwang-yeon (24-Gangwon).
Lee played in the first and second rounds of the men’s soccer group stage at the Hangzhou Asian Games 스포츠토토 against Kuwait (9-0) and Thailand (4-0), as well as the Round of 16 match against Kyrgyzstan (5-1) on Nov. 27 to help the team advance to the quarterfinals.
As South Korea dominated the group stage, scoring 16 goals and conceding none in three games, the initial question among fans was, “Did Lee Kwang-yeon take a shower today? Since she rarely had to block shots, the general consensus was that she didn’t need to take a shower.
In reality, Lee Kwang-yeon didn’t face much of a save situation in the group stage. In fact, the number of shots on goal by opponents was minimal. The same could be said for Min Sung-joon (Incheon), who played in the third game against Bahrain with the round of 16 already secured.
However, Lee conceded his first goal of the tournament in the 29th minute against Kyrgyzstan. The Korean goalkeeper was beaten by Mascat Aligulo’s shot from the edge of the box during a counterattack that began with a ball-touch error by captain Baek Seung-ho (Jeonbuk).
“I hope we don’t have to play like this again,” said Hwang Sun-hong after the 5-1 win, focusing on the one goal rather than the five.
Lee found himself one-on-one with Aligulov once again in the final minutes of the first half, with South Korea holding a precarious 2-1 lead. This time, however, she was able to deflect Aligulov’s shot to deny her opponent any hope of a comeback.
It’s hard to tell if Lee has been showering or not unless you ask him in an interview. Even if he hadn’t showered in the group stage, we can only assume that he took a shower after the Kyrgyz game to rinse off the sweat from the heat and the sweat from the panic.
With the win, South Korea advanced to the quarterfinals and will face host China on Oct. 1 at the Huanglong Sports Center Stadium in Hangzhou. The match against China will be on a different level than the group stage and round of 16 matches. There will always be moments when Lee Kwang-yeon’s saves are absolutely necessary, and a ‘golden save’ like the one he made against Aligulov will definitely give the team a boost.
Just as you can’t win a tournament without goals from your strikers, you can’t win a tournament without goalkeeping. Behind the back-to-back titles in Incheon 2014 and Jakarta-Palembang 2018 were the “fireworks” of Kim Seung-kyu (Al Shabab) and Cho Hyun-woo (Ulsan).
Lee Kwang-yeon was part of the runner-up finish at the 2019 U-20 World Cup alongside Lee Kang-in (Paris Saint-Germain). His animalistic saves are reminiscent of his team’s president, Kim Byung-ji. She is coming back from a cruciate ligament injury and hopes to win gold at the Asian Games.