South Korea, led by head coach Shin Tae-yong, called up 26 players for their last two matches in the final Asian qualifying round for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The Taeguk Warriors are scheduled to host Iran on Thursday and take on Uzbekistan five days later.
Sixteen players -- mostly domestic K League Classic-based -- have been training at the National Football Center in Paju, north of Seoul, since last Monday after getting approval from their respective clubs for an early call-up. Kim Young-gwon of Guangzhou Evergrande and Ki Sung-yueng of Swansea City also joined the national team last week to train early with teammates.
|South Korea`s national football team players drink water during training at the National Football Center in Paju, north of Seoul, on Aug. 25, 2017. (Yonhap)|
South Korea will have a complete squad from this week as eight players are scheduled to enter the NFC on Monday. Among them is Son Heung-min, who made his first start of the season with the English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
Son started against Burnley at Wembley Stadium in London and played 70 minutes before being replaced by Moussa Sissoko. Though Son was still seen wearing a cast on his right forearm due to a fracture he suffered during the World Cup qualifier against Qatar in June, the 25-year-old forward is expected to have no problem playing for the national team.
Koo Ja-cheol of FC Augsburg and Kwon Chang-hoon of Dijon FCO will also join the squad after playing for their respective clubs over the weekend. Koo played 76 minutes in Augsburg's 2-2 draw with Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday, while Kwon was in action for 56 minutes to help Dijon beat Montpellier 2-1.
Hwang Hee-chan of FC Red Bull Salzburg was originally scheduled to join the national team at 10 p.m. Monday but will enter the NFC early since he didn't play in the Austrian club's match against Sturm Graz on Sunday. Salzburg said the 21-year-old striker has a knee problem, so the national team officials are first expected to examine Hwang's injury status before starting training.
With Europe-based players, four national members who are with Japanese clubs will also enter the NFC. They are goalkeepers Kim Jin-hyeon and Kim Seung-gyu, and midfielders Kim Bo-kyung and Jang Hyun-soo.
With the full squad assembled, Shin's side will work on its tactics against Iran. Since last week, South Korea have been focusing on organizing their defense and building up their passing. They had a friendly match against the K League Classic club Suwon Samsung Bluewings on Saturday behind closed doors but picked up a 2-1 loss.
Shin will confirm the team's captain and his 23-man list for the World Cup qualifier against Iran later this week.
Meanwhile, Iran's national football team has been training in South Korea since Saturday. Carlos Queiroz's side has called up 24 players for the upcoming match.
With only two matches remaining, Iran have already qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup after securing the top spot in Group A with 20 points, seven points ahead of South Korea and eight points above Uzbekistan. In Asia, only the top two teams in each group can directly advance to the World Cup in Russia. (Yonhap)