S. Korea hoping for Son Heung-min’s quick return from facial injury

There will be millions of fingers crossed in South Korea over the next several days, with the football-crazed nation hoping for a timely and healthy return for Son Heung-min, the beloved captain of the men’s national team at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Son is still recovering from facial fractures, sustained in a collision with an opposing player earlier this month. He had surgery on Nov. 4, 20 days before South Korea’s first match in Group H against Uruguay.
In the immediate aftermath of the procedure, speculation ran rampant as to whether Son will be available for South Korea, at least for later matches. And on Nov. 9, Son announced on his social media that he’d be willing to play wearing a protective mask if that’s what it takes to represent the country in football’s biggest competition.
Son arrived in Doha in the wee hours of Wednesday and then participated in his first training session later that same day while sporting a black, Zorro-style carbon mask.
Son constantly fiddled with the gear and later said he had to adjust its fit because the swelling around his eye kept going down.
Son was held out of teamwide strategic workouts for his first three days in Doha.
Son didn’t offer a definitive timetable for his return during Wednesday’s press conference, and there has been no further update since.
It’s no secret that South Korea will only go as far as Son can take them. As the reigning Premier League Golden Boot winner, Son is easily South Korea’s most dangerous offensive weapon. If he can’t play, or if he is limited to only a few minutes off the bench, then South Korea’s already tough path to the knockouts will become even rockier.
Among other offensive options, forward Hwang Ui-jo has been mired in a seasonlong slump with his new club in Greece, Olympiacos FC. The only other forward on the team, Cho Gue-sung, is a World Cup rookie whose goal-scoring prowess for Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the K League 1 may or may not translate to similar international success.
Without Son, it’s difficult to imagine where goals are going to come from for South Korea.
Son also has influence on the team that transcends his skills on the pitch. Young players gravitate toward Son and admire the 30-year-old not just for his sheer talent but for his exemplary leadership. The term “heart and soul” may get thrown around in team sports, but Son really embodies that for South Korea.
Son is tied with former stars Park Ji-sung and Ahn Jung-hwan for most World Cup goals by a South Korean player with three each.
Son is also trying to become just the second South Korean to score in three consecutive World Cups, after Park did so in 2002, 2006 and 2010.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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