South Korea will hope that Son Heung-min’s instant impact at Asian Cup 2019 will continue when they meet underdogs Bahrain in the round of 16.
Here are the talking points for Tuesday’s clash at Rashid Stadium:
Son’s shooting boots
In Son’s absence, 28 shots had generated 1-0 wins for Korea against the Philippines and Kyrgyzstan.
After only one day’s full training, he inspired Korea to double their tournament’s goal tally in the 2-0 win against China when Group C finished.
Son’s cutting edge shouldn’t be vital against Bahrain. They are ranked 60 places lower by FIFA in 113th.
Head coach Paulo Bento will, though, want to see signs that the late addition’s presence sparks an uplift from team-mates.
Holsten Kiel midfielder Lee Jae-sung should be pushing for a start now a toe knock has reportedly been overcome.
Soukup’s special plan
Bahrain have experienced mixed results to date when combating the tournament’s elite performers.
The lethal pair of Khalfan Mubarak and Ali Mabkhout were kept deathly quiet in the opening 1-1 draw against hosts the UAE. Thailand’s J1 League star Chanathip Songkrasin then got the only goal when they met Thailand.
In the pivotal last Group A meeting with India, head coach Miroslav Soukup threw on strikers from the bench and was rewarded with Jamal Rashid’s 91st-minute penalty.
Such boldness will not be witnessed in Dubai.
A likely 4-2-3-1 formation will be utilised to constrict space, with anchors Komail Al Aswad and Abdulwahab Al Safi keeping an eye on Son.
Only two goals have been conceded to date, meaning they could frustrate their celebrated opponents.
Who holds the Ki?
Experienced Newcastle midfielder Ki Sung-yeung has officially departed after only 58 minutes of action, courtesy of a hamstring knock.
This has seen Bento, regrettably, wave goodbye to a player with more than 100 caps.
Watch out for Hwang In-beom in his absence.
The 22-year-old plays in K League 2 with Daejeon Citizen, but he’s impressed in the UAE. Such is the enviable depth of South Korean football.
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