“My goal is not to make the A team. My goal this season is to be a competitive player,” said Jung Ho-yeon (24-Gwangju FC), who made his first A team appearance.

Hwang Sun-hong, head coach of the Korea National Football Team, selected Jeong for the two March A matches against Thailand. With no youth national team experience, Jeong made his way to the A team through the Asian Games squad. “I think it’s an honor. It’s a place where not everyone can go, and you can’t just go there. I’m representing Gwangju. I think I can show why our team is moving forward like this. I want to play against world-class players and learn how they play soccer.” Gwangju, the breakout team of the 2023 season, has opened the 2024 season with two straight wins. The team swept FC Seoul (2-0) and Gangwon (4-2) to take the lead.

Jung Ho-yeon’s selection was entirely predictable: he’s the hottest player in the K League right now. Since making his professional debut in 2022, he has been improving rapidly every year. With his sponge-like learning ability, his energetic movements, and his weapon of integrity, he has become the core of the Gwangju midfield. Gwangju head coach Lee Jung-hyo recently told Sports Chosun, “I think Jeong Ho-yeon is in that position (with the A team). He is competitive. If he continues to grow like this, I think it will be beneficial for Korean soccer.”

The growth is evident. He joined the team for the Hangzhou Asian Games last year, helping South Korea win its third consecutive title, and was named the K League 1 Young Player of the Year in 2023. “I gained confidence by continuing to play and experiencing big competitions,” says Jung. I feel like I have a broader perspective on the game compared to before. Before, I was busy giving the ball to others when it came to me. Now I keep thinking, ‘Which player should I give the ball to so that our offense can run more smoothly. I feel like I have a little more perspective.”

Following the Hangzhou Games, Chung worked with coach Hwang Sun-hong once again. “My personal goal was to do my best on the day I was given,” he said. I had a meeting with coach Lee Jung-hyo. He told me to dream of making the A team, to try, and after that, I set my sights on the A team. My goal this season is not to go to the A team, but to go and be a competitive player. The team goal is to win the championship. I want to move forward with the team towards that goal.”

Chung will have to fight through competition for a starting spot in the Hwangsun Hongho. Baek Seung-ho (Birmingham City) and Park Jin-seob (Jeonbuk) are among the other contenders for the position.


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