Qatar 2022 - Korea Republic star Son still on course for Qatar 2022 selection
  • Korea Republic super star Son Heungmin suffered a facial injury during Tottenham Hotspur's match against Marseille

  • 30-year-old underlined his determination to compete at Qatar 2022

  • He said: "Considering the masks you've been wearing with patience for the past two years, my masks that will be worn at the World Cup will be nothing"

In positive news for both him and his country, Korea Republic star Son Heungmin has underlined his determination to take part in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, despite the concerns surrounding his recent facial injury. Yet the 30-year-old Premier League sharpshooter is not out of the woods yet.

Indeed, it was during Tottenham Hotspur’s final UEFA Champions League group stage match versus French outfit Marseille on 2 November that Son collided with defender Chancel Mbemba, 28, when both players were challenging for a high ball and received a heavy blow to his left-eye area. The impact of Mbemba’s shoulder caused Son to suffer a fracture of his left orbital wall, with the player going under the surgeon’s knife back in England two days later.

After releasing an official statement regarding Son’s surgery, Tottenham stated that updates on his recovery and rehabilitation would be provided in due course. And though Spurs have not formerly announced when he will return to action, the Korean attacker took to his personal social media to deliver the news that he plans to play at Qatar 2022.

“Hi everyone, I just wanted to take a moment to thank you all for the messages of support I have received over the last week. I have read so many of them and truly, truly appreciate you all. In a tough time, I’ve received a lot of strength from you! Playing for your country at the World Cup is the dream of so many children growing up, just as it was one of mine too. I won't miss this for the world.

“Considering the masks you've been wearing with patience for the past two years, my masks that will be worn at the World Cup will be nothing,” he continued. “Even if there is only a 1 per cent chance, I will run with that chance to represent our beautiful country at the World Cup.”

The message clearly shows the captain’s desire to play in the World Cup, even if he has to wear a protective mask of the kind once worn by defender Kim Taeyoung, a key player in Korea Republic’s run to the semi-finals at Korea/Japan 2002. However, the two injuries are quite different as Kim broke his nose while Son has an eye-socket fracture. 

Therefore, while pursuing the “1 per cent chance” that Son mentioned on his Instagram post proves his desire to return quickly enough to play a part for his country on Qatari soil, it does suggest his possibilities of recovery remain slim
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 27: Son Heung-Min of South Korea celebrates with team mates after scoring his team's first goal during the South Korea v Cameroon - International friendly match at Seoul World Cup Stadium on September 27, 2022 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

The Qatar 2022 finals kick off on 21 November, with Korea Republic set to play their first match in Group H against Uruguay three days later. Head coach Paulo Bento is scheduled to announce his final 26-player list on 12 November, with participating countries subsequently able to select 23 players from this 26 in their matchday squad. 

Should a player sustain an injury or be confirmed to have COVID-19, said player can be substituted by one of a 55-player list of reserves, according to FIFA regulations. Accordingly, including Son in the final squad list is a gamble worth taking for Bento, even if his inspirational forward only has “a 1 per cent chance” of playing. 

The consensus among the Korea Republic coaching staff and the Korean Football Association (KFA) is that their captain’s mere presence, even if that is only on the bench, will provide a vital boost to the squad’s morale. And should he not be able to play any part in the team’s opener versus Uruguay, his team-mates will be hoping he is fit enough to make an appearance in their second encounter versus Ghana on 28 November or 3 December’s clash with Portugal.

Claude B Djaquis (FIFA Pool)