South Korea look to turn it on against Bahrain
Heung-Min Son (right) has returned to give the South Korean team a much needed shot in the arm.
Dubai - Injured Ki Sung-yueng ruled out of remainder of Asian Cup
By James Jose
Published: Mon 21 Jan 2019, 5:32 PM
Last updated: Mon 21 Jan 2019, 7:42 PM
Having kicked into gear over the course of the group stages and buoyed by the return of Tottenham Hotspur star Heung-Min Son, two-time champions South Korea will be looking to turn it on when they square off against Bahrain in the AFC Asian Cup round of 16 on Tuesday.
The Taegeuk Warriors, champions of the inaugural edition in 1956 and then 1960, as well as runners-up in 1972, 1980, 1988, and the previous edition in 2015, meet the Bahrainis at the Rashid Stadium.
And coach Paulo Bento, while paying respect to their opponents, was confident of coming away with victory and a berth in the quarterfinals.
"It is the first game in the different phase of the competition. And we go against a team that is offensive and have strong players in attack. We should be aware of that and control that moment of the game. We will try to manage the game the best way we can as a team," Bento said at the Rashid Stadium on Monday.
"Our confidence is good but the most important is that we respect our opponents. They have good characteristics and it will be a hard and a tough game. But we are confident we will win this game," he added.
South Korea will be without Ki Sung-yueng, with the Newcastle United playmaker ruled out for the rest of the competition after sustaining a hamstring injury during the game against the Philippines.
Bento said it would be tough to replace a player like Ki but said they would have to cope without him.
"He's not going to be with us. It is tough to replace an experienced and professional player with a lot of quality like him, but we have to find a solution. He didn't play in the last two games. We have to play as well as possible even though we don't have a very important player who has a big influence. We have to do our best and try and win to make the quarterfinals," the Portuguese said.
Although Ki returned to training last Friday, he was released from the squad to give him ample time to recover.
"The decision was taken yesterday (Sunday). We decided it was best to release him. We wish him a good recovery and we hope he can come back soon," he said.
And while Ki will be missed, South Korea are set to welcome back Lee Chung-yong, who returned following a quick trip back home due to personal reasons.
Meanwhile, striker Hwang Ui-jo hopes to have his scoring boots like he did when he scored a hat-trick against the Bahrainis at the Asian Games in Jakarta.
"I'm focused on scoring if I have the chance. Those were good memories and I hope I can add to that," said Ui-jo.