Can Augsburg's South Korean international Hong Jeong-ho, a 24-year-old, 6'1", 163-pound centre-back, make inroads into his Bundesliga career next season?
To address that question, this article grades Hong's performance against Russia at the 2014 FIFA World Cup and provides a scouting report on his debut Bundesliga season with Augsburg.
Hong vs. Russia Grade: A
Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev's blunder is the talking point of South Korea's 1-1 draw against Russia, but one underplayed moment was the injury to Hong.
Hong was quietly having a solid game clearing the ball 12 times, per Squawka.com.
In addition, Hong blocked a shot, made two tackles, intercepted a pass and completed 89 percent of his passes.
A minute after Hong was replaced by Hwang Seok-ho, Russian substitute Alexander Kerzhakov took advantage of scrappy South Korean defending and poached a goal.
South Korean centre-backs Hwang and Kim Young-Gwon had their hands up in the air, perhaps in homage to 2PM, rather than doing their job: Tackling.
It was as inexcusable as Akinfeev flapping at South Korean substitute Lee Keun-Ho's snap shot.
Hong going off was a factor in South Korea's defensive breakdown.
There was a lack of communication between Hwang and Kim.
To exacerbate the matter, not only did Hwang not defend, he muffed his clearance which rebounded off Russian right-back Andrey Eshchenko leading to Kerzhakov's goal.
Hong's absence was decisive in Russia gaining a point.
Hong Augsburg Summary
Augsburg manager Markus Weinzierl, one of the brightest young coaches in Europe, made Hong the first-choice backup centre-back.
"[Hong] was the desired candidate to strengthen our defence," Weinzierl said, per Bundesliga.com. "We'd be delighted if Hong could develop in the same way Ja-Cheol Koo and Ji Dong-Won did last season."
Hong started four Bundesliga games alongside Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker and two with Ragnar Klavan, the latter two players being Weinzier's preferred centre-back pairing.
Hong spent his first season adjusting to Bundesliga football and acclimatising to life in Germany, which was assisted by his compatriot Ji.
Hong has size, is good on the ball and possesses outstanding recovery speed.
Chasing down Hamburg's Hannover 96 loanee Artjoms Rudnevs, Hong pressurises the Latvian centre-forward into a rushed shot.
Mainz right attacking midfielder Nicolai Muller's shot is blocked by Hong as he quickly closes down the shooting angle.
Hong only conceded 0.4 fouls per game, so he is a safe tackler.
What Hong needs to work on is being compact at the back.
Blindsided by an over-the-top ball, Hong lets in Schalke right-back Atsuto Uchida.
Hong is out of position as Hertha Berlin centre-forward Sandro Wagner shoots on goal forcing Augsburg goalkeeper Marwin Hitz into action.
Hong was having a great game against Russia, but he will feel incomplete as his body betrayed him again.
Worrying for Korea. CB Hong Jeong-ho carried off after bad tackle. Missed 2012 Olympics due to broken leg— John Duerden (@JohnnyDuerden) May 28, 2014
If Hong can stay fit and consistently replicate his display against Russia in the Bundesliga next season, he will win a starting position at Augsburg.
Statistics via WhoScored.com