Son Heung-min ‘question mark’ for friendly vs. Vietnam: Klinsmann

South Korean captain Son Heung-min remains questionable for his team's next friendly match against Vietnam on Tuesday, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said on the eve of the contest.

South Korea, ranked 26th, will host No. 95 Vietnam at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, south of Seoul, at 8 p.m. Tuesday. At his prematch presser at the stadium, Klinsmann said Son and midfielder Hwang In-beom are "two little question marks."

Jurgen Klinsmann, head coach of the South Korean men's national football team, speaks at a press conference at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on Oct. 16, 2023, the eve of South Korea's friendly match against Vietnam. (Yonhap)

Jurgen Klinsmann, head coach of the South Korean men's national football team, speaks at a press conference at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on Oct. 16, 2023, the eve of South Korea's friendly match against Vietnam. (Yonhap)

Both players sat out South Korea's previous friendly against Tunisia in Seoul last Friday. Son had been nursing a groin injury and had been a limited participant in training before Friday. Hwang was initially in the starting lineup but was removed just minutes before kickoff after suffering a left adductor injury during warmup.

South Korea beat Tunisia 4-0 without the two mainstays.

"We'll test (the players) in a training session this afternoon, and after training, we'll know a bit more," Klinsmann said. "The team played very well against Tunisia and we'd like to continue this way."

Given the huge discrepancy in their FIFA ranking positions, South Korea are expected to dominate Vietnam, with or without Son and Hwang. The Korea Football Association has faced some criticism for scheduling a friendly against a seemingly overmatched team, at a time when South Korea should face better teams in preparation for the World Cup qualifiers in November and the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup in Qatar in January.

But Klinsmann said Vietnam are "not a weak opponent" and it was important to play other Asian teams as the Asian Cup approaches.

Jurgen Klinsmann (R), head coach of the South Korean men's national football team, smiles before a training session at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on Oct. 16, 2023, the eve of South Korea's friendly match against Vietnam. (Yonhap)

Jurgen Klinsmann (R), head coach of the South Korean men's national football team, smiles before a training session at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on Oct. 16, 2023, the eve of South Korea's friendly match against Vietnam. (Yonhap)

"This is the last test we can have before we start the World Cup qualifying and go to Qatar," the coach said. "We think we know quite a lot about Vietnam and it's a good test for us."

Klinsmann said he has been pleased with the way his players have been learning more about what he and his staff demand, and also the way they have been building their own chemistry and team spirit.

To that end, Klinsmann said he wants Son and Hwang to be on the bench Tuesday night even if they can't play.

"One thing is yes, we want to win games. But the other big topic before a big tournament is we grow a group of people, with the staff and everyone together, that needs to become one, very, very focused," Klinsmann said. "This is only my fourth camp with the team, and only nine days. So that's why it's so important that we're together and we build chemistry, we build energy, we build desire and belief."

Jurgen Klinsmann, head coach of the South Korean men's national football team, speaks at a press conference at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on Oct. 16, 2023, the eve of South Korea's friendly match against Vietnam. (Yonhap)

Jurgen Klinsmann, head coach of the South Korean men's national football team, speaks at a press conference at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on Oct. 16, 2023, the eve of South Korea's friendly match against Vietnam. (Yonhap)

In lieu of Son, center back Kim Min-jae wore the captain's armband against Tunisia. Kim was a monster on defense in that match, but Klinsmann said he enjoyed seeing Kim, 26, grow into the leadership role even though he is not among the senior players on the squad.

"Min-jae deserves a lot of compliments in the way he transitioned over the last year," Klinsmann said. "He's learning constantly. He's helping us grow as well."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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