South Korean winger Son Heung-min has made his Premier League season debut with Tottenham Hotspur after recovering from an arm fracture, much to the relief of the national team brass ahead of key World Cup qualifiers.
Son came off the bench to replace Moussa Sissoko in the second half of the away match against Newcastle United on Sunday. Son didn't score in the Spurs' 2-0 victory, while playing with a compression bandage on his right arm.
Son fractured the right forearm in a fall during a World Cup qualifier against Qatar two months ago. The diagnosis at the time was Son would miss between eight to 12 weeks of action, which put his availability for South Korea's final two World Cup qualifying matches -- against Iran on Aug. 31 and Uzbekistan on Sept. 5 in doubt.
But Son squelched doubts by playing just over 30 minutes in the first game of the Premier League season.
Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur (C) congratulates Dele Alli (L) on his goal against Newcastle United in the teams` English Premier League match at St James` Park in Newcastle on Aug. 13, 2017. (EPA-Yonhap)
South Korea head coach Shin Tae-yong said last week he'd name Son to his team regardless of his actual ability to play, since his presence alone can have a positive impact on the squad. The national team will be unveiled later Monday.
The dynamic winger is coming off his most successful European season to date, having scored a career-best 21 goals in all competitions and earned the Premier League's Player of the Month honors twice.
South Korea will need all the offensive help they can get. They are seeking their ninth consecutive World Cup appearance in Russia next year but are just holding on to the last automatic berth in Group A of the final Asian qualifying round.
Iran have already clinched a spot in Group A with 20 points. South Korea is in second place with 13 points, only one above Uzbekistan with two games to play. (Yonhap)