For football fans, the name Cho Gue-sung did not say too much before the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Sure, he was the Korean League’s top scorer this season and the MVP of the Korean Cup, while playing for his club side, Jeonbuk Motors, but other than that, his profile was quite low on other continents than Asia, or outside the Republic of Korea, for that instance.
But a brace against Ghana transformed him into an internet sensation, becoming viral in plenty of countries, but more so in a country where K-Pop stars have godlike status. In fact, Cho might have just propelled himself as the second most known Korean player after local hero, Son Heung-min.
And while Korea might have been eliminated in the Round of 16 by a trailblazing Brazil side, which thoroughly dominated the game from start to finish, they might just have uncovered a new star, Cho, who is now linked with several powerhouses throughout Europe.
Cho Gue-sung did not start the Qatar 2022 tournament as a starter, having played only 17 minutes in the scoreless draw against Uruguay. But when coached Paulo Bento decided to insert him into his squad in the game against Ghana, lost 2-3, Cho replied instantly with a brace, that enhanced his potential to enormous heights.
But it was not a clip of Cho playing at the FIFA World Cup or scoring goals that went viral. No, it was a clip posted on Twitter with him just sitting and chilling on the bench, after being substituted in a game played for his club, Jeonbuk Motors.
His official Instagram account boomed, from 20.000 followers, to 2.4 million followers, after the Korea striker scored two goals and featured prominently in the next two matches at Qatar 2022. Everything went so fast, that Cho had, eventually, to turn his phone off so he could focus on the task at hand, which meant helping Korea at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Sure, he was not on the scoring list in the crazy comeback against Portugal, which saw Korea take the lead in the 91st minute to progress to the Round of 16, nor in the clash against Brazil, which saw the Asian side eliminated after a 1-4 drubbing.
But for all his football antics, Cho Gue-sung is also considered to be the complete package at Qatar 2022, with his good looks also attracting heavy interest both in native Korea and throughout the whole world. It also helped that he is no stranger to fashion, mentioning it as his second hobby after football.
“I think I would have done something challenging. Maybe something in the fashion industry because I like fashion and am interested in it,” said Korea’s striker.
But the hard work put in was also immense. He kickstarted his career with a stint in the second league at Gimcheon Sangmu, while in his mandatory military draft in the 2021/22 season. Scoring 21 goals in 48 matches, he returned a different player at Jeonbuk, while also earning his first cap in the national team.
Before Qatar 2022, Cho had four goals for Korea and confirmed his already star status with two goals against Ghana, also being a decisive cog in the machine during the win against Portugal. After the 2-1 win, he was visibly emotional, earning even more praise for his down to earth approach.
“I don’t cry often, but today I cried a lot. Then emotions came up. Even now. I still can’t believe it,” said Cho.
And his profile flared up even higher when he got into a small fight with Cristiano Ronaldo during the match against Portugal.
“Before leaving the game, a South Korean player told me to leave the field immediately. I told him to shut up. He has no authority, he doesn’t need to give an opinion,” Ronaldo said.
Sure, a team will not seek Cho for his trash talk, rather than what he does on the pitch. And several teams have already put him on the list, with Scottish giants Celtic leading the line, after having already dipped their toes into the water with several players from Japan.
While that might still be a long way, what’s clear is that Cho has done enough to enhance his profile high enough to be a player that everybody talks about. A transfer to Europe would just make him another excellent Asian player that stepped up after a successful FIFA World Cup edition.