Final chances to impress before World Cup



The Korea Times Co.


The 2022 World Cup moves that much closer this week with the final FIFA international break before November. It is a last chance for coach Paulo Bento to get all his players together before he chooses his final roster for the big event and Group H games against Uruguay, Ghana and Portugal. There are two warm-up games in the next seven days, against Costa Rica on Friday and then against Cameroon on the following Tuesday. With both teams also preparing for the World Cup, they should be very useful tests. These are the kind of opponents that Korea should be looking to defeat if it wants to be a force on the global stage. But the Central Americans and the Africans will feel the same about the Taeguk Warriors. Ahead of the games, much of the focus has been, unsurprisingly, on Son Heung-min. Last season, the captain won the English Premier League Golden Boot, the prize given to the player who scores the most goals. Yet in the first eight games of the season, six in the English league and two in the UEFA Champions League for Tottenham Hotspur, Son did not score. He was even dropped for last Saturday’s game against Leicester City, but then came off the bench in the second half to score three goals in 13 minutes. It was a spectacular way to end the dry run. It goes without saying that Son is the most famous and best player in the team, and all his talent and experience is necessary if Korea is to get into the second round of the World Cup for the first time since 2010. “I was long looking forward to coming home and feeding off the energy of our fans here, because Korean supporters are really special in the way they give us so much positive energy,” Son said after arriving back in Korea. “And I thought I could bring those vibes back to my club and use them to my advantage. And then something crazy happened in that game, and I couldn’t be happier.” After four years in charge, this should be the time for coach Bento to be fine-tuning the team. He has been questioned on a number of occasions as to why he wasn’t calling talented midfielder Lee Kang-in, but the Spain-based star has been summoned and should get a chance to show what he can do. Kim Min-jae returns from Italy, where he has been impressing for Napoli since joining the club in the summer. Goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu comes back from his new club in Saudi Arabia where he has kept four clean sheets in the first four games of the season and has been in impressive form. There are not that many problems for Bento in terms of injuries or issues. He has the players he wants and time with them and decent opponents. While wins are always welcome, more welcome will be solid performances and signs of improvement in a year that has been up and down. Son showed the way with his magnificent hat trick and it is now time for others to step forward and take advantage of what could be the last chance to stake a claim for a World Cup starting place. “I want these two matches to mean something special, and I’d like to show our fans that we really are a great team,” Son said. “I want to instill confidence in our supporters that we’ll do well at the World Cup. Our preparation will be special, and hopefully we will have special results.”