Arms raised eagerly throughout the match, the youngest striker hopes and obsesses over his debut goal

After traveling to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar a year ago without a number, Oh Hyun-gyu (Celtic) started the 2026 North American Championship with the number ’20’.

Oh was on the substitutes’ bench against Singapore in the first match of Group C of the North American Championship’s second Asian qualifying round at the Seoul World Cup Stadium on Sept. 16. After coming off the bench, Oh warmed up and got his chance midway through the first half. Cho Kyu-sung (Mitwillan) started and the attacking second line of Hwang Hee-chan (Wolverhampton), Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur), Lee Kang-in (Paris Saint-Germain) and Lee Jae-sung (Mainz 05) was too solid.

Oh Hyun-gyu, who was still working hard in the second half, thought he was being called by coach Cha Doo-ri in the first substitution in the 18th minute and put his hand to his chest in a “Is that me?” gesture, but the first three players chosen were Hwang Eui-jo (Norwich City), Jung Woo-young (Stuttgart), and Kim Jin-soo (Jeonbuk Hyundai). Oh ran to the bench and watched in disbelief as the trio prepared to make their substitutions.

With a 3-0 lead, coach Jürgen Klinsmann substituted Cho Kyu-sung, Lee Jae-sung, and Lee Ki-jae first, as if he was conscious of the upcoming match against China in Shenzhen on May 21. Two minutes later, Hwang Ui-jo stepped up to take the penalty kick that Seol Young-woo (Ulsan Hyundai) had earned.

With Cho Kyu-sung scoring with his left foot and Hwang Ui-jo with his right, things were getting urgent for fellow position competitor Oh Hyun-gyu. He had gotten a taste of the full A team in March against Colombia, but had yet to score a goal on debut. In June against Peru, he was not so lucky as he was blocked by the goalkeeper in a crucial situation.

When he came off the bench, captain Son Heung-min said, “(Oh) Hyun-gyu, you shouldn’t be disappointed. You’ll learn from it, and there are more important games to come,” and gave him words of encouragement.

Oh made his second substitution in the 27th minute with Lee Sun-min (Gwangju FC). The opportunity came when Hwang Hee-chan and Hwang In-beom (Tsubena Zbezda) were sent off at the same time. Lee Kang-in is the youngest member of the national team, born in 2001, so he has the best fighting spirit. 무지개토토

Oh Hyun-kyu stretched his arms into the air, eagerly waiting for the ball to come to him. Lee Kang-in, who has a killer pass, keeps his arms raised as he darts between defenses. However, after Lee scored a goal with his left foot in the 40th minute, the ball did not come easily to Oh Hyun-gyu.

Still, Oh kept moving. He waited for the right moment to strike. Even in extra time, he kept trying to break offside behind the defender’s back, but the result was “on the next opportunity after his debut goal. Seven minutes into the second half of the 2023-24 Scottish Premiership (SPFL) Round 13 match against Aberdeen on Dec. 12, shortly before his call-up, he came on as a substitute for Kyogo Furuhashi and helped Luis Palma score from the penalty spot in the 32nd minute. He awakened his scoring touch with two goals in added time. His goal-silence against Singapore was a bit of a disappointment, as the tide had been turning since his goal against St. Mirren in Round 11.

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