As Son Heung-min starts the new season slowly, do South Korea need a plan B for the FIFA World Cup?


After the high standards he set for himself during his Golden Boot premier league 2021-22 campaign, it wouldn’t be too hard to say that Son Heung-min slowly started the new season.

With six games less in the Premier League and one more in Champions Leaguethe usually prolific striker has yet to open his account this term.

Before the assessment gets too critical, it has to be said that Son has a lot of credit in his account – not just for last season’s 23 league goals, but throughout his previous seven years with Tottenham.

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After all, every striker will inevitably encounter a similar drought (Spurs team-mate Harry Kane seemed allergic to scoring in August before). It should be noted that Son continues to offer a lot to his team in other areas even if he is not kicking the goal at the moment.

As such, Tottenham manager Antonio Conte will continue to be patient with his star man, knowing he will eventually get good.

But time is not something abundant for the other man who will be watching Son’s performance closely.

Just three months from the fifa world cupSouth Korean coach Paulo Bento will be watching with slight, if not great, concern.

Given that the Taegeuk Warriors endured tough tests in Group H against Portugal, Uruguay and Ghana, it’s no secret that they will need their talismanic captain firing full throttle if they want to have a chance to reach the turn. of 16.

It can only be a good thing to have world-class talent like Son at their disposal, but the flip side is a potentially unhealthy overreliance on an individual player.

So, does South Korea have enough options in store as a plan B?

First, it’s worth remembering that despite his prolific goalscoring ways, Son is far from a traditional hard-core striker who serves as a pivot in attack.

For South Korea, this role usually falls to Hwang Ui-jo – who recently joined Olympiakos on loan after being relegated to League 2 with Bordeaux last season.

With 23 goals in League 1 to his name over the past two years, Hwang’s strike rate in France is quite healthy, as is his international tally of 16 goals in 47 caps.

Nonetheless, there are still doubts about Hwang’s ability to win a match for the Taegeuk Warriors on his own – especially at a World Cup – so who else is there?

It’s no secret that Bento’s options are severely limited in this No. 9 position.

The Portuguese tactician constantly inflated for Cho Gue-sung as Hwang’s assistant even when the 24-year-old was plying his trade in South Korea’s second division K League 2. In defense of both, Cho has been a consistent goalscorer but hasn’t proven himself outside of the national stage.

Other striking options are either just as inexperienced as Kim Gunhee and Cho Young-wookor were completely ignored — Joo Min-kyu somehow continuing to wait for his chance at international level despite becoming the first homegrown top scorer in K League 1 in five years with his impressive 22-goal run.

So if the attackers don’t present themselves as an adequate back-up plan, what other areas of the pitch could potentially produce an alternative match-winner to Son?

Given that he is also currently plying his trade in the Premier League, the Wolves striker Hwang Hee-chan is the most obvious candidate.

The 26-year-old has shown glimpses of attacking ability which has seen him rise to prominence alongside Erling Haaland and Takumi Minamino at Red Bull Salzburg, although he has yet to establish himself as a regular starter at Molineux.

Lee Jae-sungnow in his second season playing in the Bundesliga for Mainz, is another member of Bento’s Europe-based squad who could provide a star turn in the attacking third, while Nam Tae-hee – who started his professional career in France – can also offer a creative spark even if he is not the most illustrious name on the Taegeuk Warriors roster.

Yet, in terms of the real game-changer, perhaps the standout candidate sits a little further behind in the middle of the park – the midfielder Hwang In Beom.

An interesting career which saw his first move abroad lead him to MLS with the Vancouver Whitecaps then led him to become one of South Korea’s brightest prospects after joining Rubin Kazan, although recent complications with playing for a Russian team have since seen him pass at Olympiakos alongside Hwang Ui-jo.

Although he is arguably doing his best job as a deep playmaker, the presence of more defensive Jung Woo-young saw Hwang In-beom often play a box-to-box role for the Taegeuk Warriors – a role in which he proved equally adept by harnessing a never-before-seen offensive skill set.

Still, given he’s only 25 and still finding his bearings in European football, it might be too difficult to ask him to step in and fill Son’s shoes when needed. .

Then again, it will always be nearly impossible to replace world-class talent.

Maybe South Korea will still need to hope that plan A works at the World Cup, and there is certainly still enough time for Son to start shooting again before their opener against Uruguay. does not take place on 24 November.

Failing that, Plan B might just require all of the aforementioned alternatives to join forces to undeniably replace world-class quality that simply cannot be replaced on its own.


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