The fourth OptaPro World Cup analytical profile focuses on South Korea and RB Salzburg forward Hee-Chan Hwang.
Other articles focus on players including Lucas Torreira and Alireza Jahanbakhsh and can be read here.
While Heung-Min Son is the first name that springs to mind when discussing the South Korea national team, rising star Hee-Chan Hwang is certainly another to watch this summer. The 22-year-old has been turning heads for Red Bull Salzburg in the Austrian Bundesliga for the past two seasons and also won the 2017 Young Asian Player of the Year award.
Having joined RB Salzburg in 2014, Hwang was then moved a few miles down the road to farm team FC Liefering, where he made 31 appearances - 26 of them starts - and scored 13 goals across two seasons.
Due to injury, Hee-Chan only managed to complete just 991 out of the 3150 available minutes in the Bundesliga 2017/18. He completed 741 minutes throughout South Korea’s World Cup qualification campaign and in their international friendlies where he accounted for a third of the team’s total assists, created 11 chances and scored two goals.
The majority of his 37 career goals have been scored from inside the area. Even of those from outside the 18-yard box, two have been Opta-defined ‘Big Chances’.
Inside the 18: Hee-Chan Hwang’s goal map
The past three years has seen Hee-Chan Hwang further reinforce his reputation as a centre forward, with the striker’s xG/shot sitting at a high 0.2, suggesting the player has an ability to get himself to high quality shooting positions, as well as being able to get these shots off.
Outside the box
Alongside his eye for goal when inside the penalty area, Hee-Chan Hwang’s movement is fantastic. He likes to take the ball in behind opposition defences, often from an arching run to get on the end of through balls, but the forward is also happy to receive to feet in front of defenders. The below heatmap outlines where he has received passes this season, showing him to be much more than just a penalty box centre forward.
Hwang is also comfortable with the ball at his feet, able to take on players with his pace and intelligence and can weave in and out of tight defences with great balance, before playing a penetrative pass into dangerous areas. Demonstrating his creativity, Hwang ranks first for chances created in the Austrian Bundesliga over the past two years when analysing strikers (with more than 2000 minutes), tallying 1.29 chances per 90. The player’s expected goals from key passes (0.16 per 90) also ranks him second in the league.
Hee-Chan Hwang key passes, 2016-18
Hwang’s key passes (including assists), shown below, further illustrate his intricate nature in the final third. Subtle touches around the penalty area, combined his shot map, showcase a player who is not particularly selfish, and one is happy to lay the ball off as well as take a shooting opportunity when the time is right.
With all this being said, combining Hee-Chan’s combined expected goals and expected assists output him ranks him above all players in the Austrian Bundesliga (minimum of 800 minutes).
Hee-Chan Hwang did struggle with injury throughout the Austrian Bundesliga season. However, he has been declared as fit for the World Cup and he will be looking to make an impact in a group where all teams will be hoping to progress to the knockout stages.