South Korea defeated Bahrain 3-1 in the first Group E match of the 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup at Qatar’s Jasim bin Hamad Stadium on the 15th (Korea time) and won a pleasant victory in its first step toward winning the title in 64 years.
Son Heung-min has started preparing for the Asian Cup after completing the 20th round of the 2023-24 Premier League. He played in the second half of the friendly match against Iraq after warming up through off-season training in the United Arab Emirates. In the match against Bahrain, he wore the captain’s armband and started full-time.
As he played as a top Premier League striker by scoring double-digit goals for seven consecutive seasons, he had strong concentration on Son Heung-min. When Son caught the ball, two or three Bahraini defenders surrounded him and kept him in check. With limited space, even the express Son Heung-min cannot fully demonstrate his capability.
He conceded a goal early in the second half, but Hwang In-beom and Lee Kang-in scored back-to-back goals to secure three points. Manager Jurgen Klinsmann left Cho Kyu-sung out and gave Son Heung-min the ninth role, and Son had one threatening shot opportunity. However, he missed the goal slightly and failed to score.
On this day, Son Heung-min and Lee Kang-in aimed for the opponent’s net several times, but if Hwang Hee-chan returns, Son Heung-min’s space is likely to be wider. Hwang Hee-chan checked his physical condition ahead of the match against Bahrain, but he did not play due to discomfort in his left hip. There is a possibility that South Korea will play after the third game because it is unlikely to be eliminated from the group stage.
Hwang Hee-chan achieved career highs in the Premier League this season. He has been a key player for Wolverhampton and has built up offensive points with the Joker as a starter. His unique aggressive dribbling and excellent positioning combine to fully threaten his Asian Cup-level opponent.
If Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min, Paris Saint-Germain’s Lee Kang-in, and Hwang Hee-chan join, it will be a huge burden to the opponent. We need to stop the three top strikers in Asia. From the opponent’s point of view, it means that the focus of checks cannot be solely on Son Heung-min.
Of course, Son focuses more on team play with the national team than Tottenham. The 2015 Australian Championship (three goals in total) was the only time he scored three times in an Asian Cup before the Qatar Asian Cup. He only recorded help in the remaining games.