Kim Bo-Kyung hears London calling
© AFP

Kim Bo-Kyung came to prominence with a goal and subsequent spectacular celebration in a 3-0 victory against USA during the final group match of the FIFA U-20 World Cup three years ago. It was a moment of individual brilliance from the then Hongik University sophomore, who advanced into the left side of the penalty area before unleashing a fierce volley into the far corner.

Having earned the nickname of “the left-foot maestro,” the slim and pacy midfielder was again on target as Korea Republic defeated Paraguay by the same scoreline in the Round of 16. But a yellow card Kim received later in that match meant that he would miss his side’s 3-2 quarter-final defeat by eventual champions Ghana.

Whilst some of the class of Egypt 2009 – notably captain Koo Ja-Cheol and centre-back Hong Jeong-Ho – went on to establish themselves in the senior national team, Kim would undergo a relatively quieter time than his peers in the next couple of years.

Despite making his international debut in January 2010 and being named in Korea Republic’s FIFA World Cup™ squad later that year, Kim had to bide his time on the sidelines with the likes of Park Ji-Sung, Lee Chung-Yong and Ki Sung-Yueng ahead of him in the midfield pecking order. The following year’s AFC Asian Cup was yet another harsh experience for Kim, who again had to watch from the bench as Koo struck five goals to lead the Taeguk Warriors to third place.

Aiming for third-time lucky
However, the qualifying campaign for the Olympic Football Tournament was a good opportunity for Kim to redeem himself, as the 22-year-old was reunited with his old coach Hong Myung-Bo. Kim came off the bench to score Korea Republic’s second goal in a 2-0 win over Oman in September, only to miss the trip to Qatar due to a broken nose. The versatile midfielder returned – wearing a protective mask - to make a telling contribution as the young Taeguk Warriors edged Saudi Arabia 1-0 at home in November.

This year will be another turning point for Kim, as the Cerezo Osaka starlet prepares for the task ahead. “I’ve been eagerly waiting this year’s Olympics, where we’re aiming at winning medals for the first time. That would be the best thing that can happen to us,” Kim said during a training session in January. “I have to put the disappointment behind me in order to perform well in the Olympics and become a better player.”

I’ve been eagerly waiting for this year’s Olympics, where we’re aiming at winning medals for the first time.
Korea Republic midfielder Kim Bo-Kyung

Kim may not be a flamboyant winger but his enormous work rate and ability to be in the right place at the right time resemble those of Park Ji-Sung, who also dropped out of college to begin his professional career in Japan 12 years ago. Although it is too early to draw a comparison to the Manchester United star, Korean media have already dubbed Kim “the next Park” as they look to fill the void left after the former Korea Republic captain announced his international retirement a year ago.

And, as if to prove himself as a natural successor to the midfield dynamo, Kim continued his habit of scoring crucial goals by netting a last-gasp equaliser with an acrobatic volley in a 1-1 draw against Saudi Arabia earlier this month. After the hard-fought stalemate Korea Republic are at the top on eight points heading into Wednesday’s penultimate match against Oman, with only a point separating the sides. Once again, the young Taeguk Warriors will hoping Kim’s deadly left foot is on form.