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S Korea hoping for Son, Hwang return for World Cup qualifiers

THE STRAITS TIMES – South Korea are still holding out hope for the return of injured Premier League duo Son Heung-min and Hwang Hee-chan ahead of World Cup qualifiers against Lebanon and Syria, head coach Paulo Bento said yesterday.

Tottenham Hotspur’s Son picked up a muscle strain in their semi-final first-leg League Cup defeat at Chelsea on January 5, while Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Hwang suffered a hamstring injury in December 2021.

“We should wait as much as we can for the recovery of those players,” Bento said.

“Then we will take the final decision. They’re two important players, players that have features to create many situations in the attacking phase. Let’s wait and we’ll take the final decision. If they aren’t able to come, we need to find another solution.”

The Koreans will play warmup games against Iceland today and Moldova six days later, before taking on Lebanon on January 27 and Syria on February 1 in the third round of Asian qualifying for Qatar 2022.

South Korea, who have appeared at every World Cup since 1986, are second in Group A of Asia’s preliminaries, two points behind Iran. The top two in each group qualify automatically for the finals in Qatar.

Son Heung-min picked up a muscle strain while Hwang Hee-chan suffered a hamstring injury in December. PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES