Son Heung-min likely to miss World Cup qualifiers

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Son Heung-min likely to miss World Cup qualifiers

Tottenham's Son Heung-min reacts during a match against Watford at Vicarage Road, Watford, England on Jan. 1. [AP/YONHAP]

Tottenham's Son Heung-min reacts during a match against Watford at Vicarage Road, Watford, England on Jan. 1. [AP/YONHAP]

 
Tottenham Hotspur announced over the weekend that Son Heung-min is expected to miss the entirety of January with a muscle injury, likely taking the Korean captain out of the national squad for two World Cup qualifiers scheduled at the end of the month.
 
Spurs announced on Friday afternoon, or early Saturday morning in Korea, that Son felt pain in his leg after a Jan. 5 game against Chelsea.
 
“We’re a bit disappointed for Sonny, because after the game against Chelsea, the day after, he felt a bit of pain in his leg,” said manager Antonio Conte. “He had a scan and, probably, he will miss two weeks.”
 
Son was substituted off in the second half of Spurs 2-0 loss to Chelsea in the first leg of a Carabao Cup semifinal on Jan. 5. He wasn't an injury concern at the time, Conte confirmed, but started to struggle the following day.
 
Son's departure comes as a blow to both Tottenham and Korea. Spurs performed fine without the forward in their 3-1 FA Cup win over third-tier club Morecambe on Sunday, but will need as much firepower as they can get for the second leg of the Carabao Cup semis against Chelsea on Wednesday.
 
That tough FA Cup match, which Spurs will need to win by at least three goals, is then followed by three difficult Premier League games — against Arsenal on Jan, 16, Leicester on Jan. 19 and Chelsea on Jan. 23.
 
Son is also expected to be out of the national team for two World Cup qualifiers scheduled for the end of the month.
 
Korea is currently competing in Group A in the third round of Asian qualifiers for the 2022 Qatar World Cup, alongside Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria. 
 
With six games now played, Korea sits in second place in the group with 14 points, behind Iran with 16 points and well ahead of the UAE, who trail in third with six points. The top two teams from each group will advance to the World Cup, with the third-place team advancing to a final fourth round of qualifiers.
 
Korea will next face Lebanon on Jan. 27, followed by Syria on Feb. 1. Both games should be comfortable wins for the Korean national team — Korea won the first leg against Lebanon 1-0 and against Syria 2-1 — but head coach Paulo Bento will have to fill at least two gaps in his lineup this time.
 
As well as Son, Korea's only other Premier League player, Wolverhampton Wanderers' Hwang Hee-chan, is also out with an injury.
 
Hwang was sidelined after suffering an injury on Dec. 15 in the early stages of a Premier League clash with Brighton. He left the pitch in the 12th minute of the game after a collision with Brighton full-back Tariq Lamptey. Brighton were awarded a free kick, and Hwang attempted to continue playing but left the pitch moments later, grabbing his thigh.
 
It appeared from replays of the incident that Hwang's toe may have got stuck in the ground, causing a brief hyperextension, likely leading to a hamstring injury. It wasn't until two weeks later that Wolves gave an update on Hwang's status, announcing that he had sustained a hamstring injury and would be out of action until February.

BY JIM BULLEY [jim.bulley@joongang.co.kr]
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