Son Heung-min is comfortable having to wear a protective mask in order to play against Uruguay, with South Korea coach Paulo Bento confident his star player is fit. Tottenham forward Son sustained a fractured eye socket in Spurs’ clash with Marseille at the start of November, casting doubt over his participation in Qatar.
However, he was named in Bento’s squad and has returned to training wearing a mask in order to shield the injury from further damage.
Korea open their Group H campaign against Uruguay on Thursday, and Bento has confidence that Son has fully recovered, though conceded there is an element of risk.
“Sonny can play, yes. He will be able to play,” Bento said. “I think the fact that he would be wearing a mask is not an inconvenience for him, it’s rather natural. “We will see how it will be. Our hope is that he will feel comfortable to the greatest extent possible, and we will use the best strategy so he can feel at ease during the game.
“He knows and we know that we cannot rule out any risks.” Son is Korea’s joint-leading World Cup goalscorer, having scored three times in the competition, and he is aiming to become only the second player from the nation to score in three separate editions of the tournament after Park Ji-sung. While Korea are heavily reliant on Son to lead their attack, Uruguay are blessed with three exceptional forwards in the form of veteran campaigners Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, along with Liverpool striker Darwin Nunez.
“With our strikers, our plan is to put a good performance in the first game, that’s for sure. We are very much excited with what we can produce,” said Uruguay coach Diego Alonso.
“We have peace of mind because we have goalscoring opportunities, flexibility not only with our strikers, we are good defensively and this will make us a very competitive team.” While Alonso would not apply extra pressure on his team, captain Diego Godin says Uruguayan players always have “big shoes to fill”. “The qualification round had ups and downs but we achieved our goal,” he said.
“The World Cup is an objective but it is still far away, but this history and this shirt requires us to win. We have very big shoes to fill when we are representing our country.” Korea boss Bento, meanwhile, also stressed that Suarez, Cavani and Nunez are not the only players his team have to worry about at Education City Stadium.
“I would say Federico Valverde is a fantastic player,” he replied when asked about the Real Madrid midfielder. “Together with [Kevin] De Bruyne he’s one of the best midfielders in the world, a player who can actually win the game.
“Collectively they are very strong, and we have to cope with the power they have as well as the individual skill sets.”