November 24, 2022 11:32
Korea faces off against Uruguay on Thursday in its opening match of the World Cup in Qatar.
The very first match is widely considered to be of crucial importance, with a victory upping a team's chance of advancing to the next stage. Korea, which is making its 10th consecutive appearance at the quadrennial event, won its first match three times in previous World Cup tournaments, reaching the round of 16 twice, in 2002 and 2010.
Korean fans are now waiting to see if Tottenham Hotspur striker and national team captain Son Heung-min, who underwent surgery early this month due to a fracture near his left eye, is able to play in the crucial match, although he seems determined to play and is willing to take risks.
Son "will be able to play," Korean national team coach Paulo Bento told reporters in a press conference on Wednesday, just a day before the match. "The fact that he would be wearing a mask is not an inconvenience for him. It's rather natural for him… We'll see tomorrow how it will be. Our hope is he will feel comfortable to the greatest extent possible. And we will use the best strategy so he will be at ease" during the match, Bento added.
Son was spotted heading the ball during the day's training for the first time since his arrival in Doha, Qatar last week, but that doesn't mean he is fully recovered. So it remains to be seen if Son will start the match or come on as a sub at a crucial moment.
Making things difficult for the Korean squad, another key attacker, Hwang Hee-chan of Wolverhampton Wanderers, is sitting on the bench due to his constant hamstring troubles. It is expected that Na Sang-ho of FC Seoul or Song Min-kyu of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors could take his spot.
Tens of thousands of Korean football fans and supporters here are expected to gather to cheer for the national team at several venues including Gwanghwamun Plaza in Seoul, hoping Korea can perform well in their tough first match and emulate the historic upsets that Saudi Arabia and Japan -- both widely considered underdogs -- achieved over Argentina and Germany in their openers early this week.
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