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U-20 World Cup squad captain flattered with comparison to 2019 hero

By Yonhap

Published : June 8, 2023 - 09:26

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South Korea captain Lee Seung-won speaks at a press conference at La Plata Stadium in La Plata, Argentina, on June 7, the eve of the semifinal match against Italy at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. (Yonhap) South Korea captain Lee Seung-won speaks at a press conference at La Plata Stadium in La Plata, Argentina, on June 7, the eve of the semifinal match against Italy at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. (Yonhap)

On a South Korean team at the FIFA U-20 World Cup with few, if any, household names, captain Lee Seung-won has emerged as an unlikely offensive star.

Lee has registered a goal and four assists to lead the unheralded South Korean team to the semifinals against Italy. Lee has tied Lee Kang-in, the MVP of the 2019 U-20 World Cup, for the most assists by a South Korean player at a FIFA tournament.

Lee Kang-in, who also had two goals, won the Golden Ball despite South Korea's loss to Ukraine in the final then. And if Lee Seung-won can help South Korea past Italy -- starting at 6 p.m. Thursday in La Plata, eastern Argentina, or 6 a.m. Friday in Seoul -- and elevate his team to the promised land, he will likely get some MVP love, too.

"I think it's an honor to have that comparison," Lee Seung-won said Wednesday at the prematch press conference at La Plata Stadium. "I'll try to help the team. If I can make sacrifices, then I think the result will follow."

Lee was the hero in South Korea's 2-1 upset of France to kick off the group stage, as he had a goal and an assist.

Against Honduras in the next match, Lee set up Park Seung-ho's header that knotted the score at 2-2. It held up as the final score, giving South Korea a hard-fought point.

South Korea then played Gambia to a goalless draw to close out the group phase. In the round of 16, Lee assisted on Choi Seok-hyun's second-half header that proved to be the difference in a 3-2 victory over Ecuador.

Lee connected with the same partner in the quarterfinals, as Choi headed home Lee's corner in extra time to secure a 1-0 win over Nigeria.

According to the Korea Football Association, Lee is the first South Korean player to have four assists on set-pieces at a single FIFA competition -- three on corners and one on a free kick. (Yonhap)