South Korea’s chances of progressing from their World Cup group have dwindled. A 2-1 loss against Mexico yesterday means they remain on zero points so far. They must now beat Germany and hope Mexico do them a favour against Sweden.
The loss yesterday would have been 2-0, were it not for a piece of brilliance from Tottenham Hotspur attacker Heung-min Son.
The 25-year-old smashed home a rasping left-foot curling effort into the top corner of Guillermo Ochoa’s net.
But failure to be a success at the World Cup will now surely mean Tottenham must make do without Son until the start of September.
Son is still required to do his South Korean military service. That would likely mean two years playing for the military K1 League side Sangmu Sangju. After a brilliant season in which he scored 18 goals in 54 games, Tottenham do not want to consider the idea of losing Son any time soon.
Whereas usually Spurs would try their best to prevent Son from playing at the Asia Games this summer, the need for a military service exemption is clear.
The competition in Indonesia starts in mid-August and is an under-23 affair, so Son would need to be one of three over-age players selected. If South Korea go all the way and win gold, he will then only have to conduct four weeks of basic training before the time he turns 28. It is a similar situation to the one which saw Swansea City’s Ki Sung-Yueng miss the start of the 2016-17 season. He received an exemption from the entire service as a member of the London 2012 Olympic team that won bronze. Son denied the call-up to the games to focus on his career at Hamburg.
Starting the season without Son will be a shame for Spurs. But, given the potential reward, it is a calculated risk they simply have to take.