South Korea without Son Heung-min for crucial match vs China

Tottenham's Heung-Min Son celebrates after scoring his third goal during the English FA Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and Millwall FC at White Hart Lane stadium in London, Sunday, March 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Tottenham's Heung-Min Son celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the English FA Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and Millwall FC at White Hart Lane stadium in London, Sunday, March 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea will be without in-form Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min in its crucial 2018 World Cup qualifier in China later this month.

Son, who scored a hat-trick on Sunday as Spurs thrashed London rival Millwall 6-0 to move into the last four of the FA Cup, is suspended for the March 23 game in the Chinese city of Changsa.

With South Korea returning to Seoul to face Syria five days later, national team coach Uli Stielike still included Son in his 24-man roster, announced Monday in Seoul.

The 2002 World Cup semifinalist beat China 3-2 last September and sits in second place in Group A in the third round of qualification with 10 points from five games, one point behind Iran. There are five games remaining and the top two teams from the group qualify automatically for the World Cup in Russia.

"We will do our best to get the win in China and start the second half of the round on a high note," Stielike told a news conference in Seoul.

China, which has qualified only once for the World Cup, is struggling with just two points but is aiming for an upturn in results after appointing 2006 World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi in October.

To add extra tension to the match, it comes at a time when relations between the countries off the field are at a low point after South Korea agreed to cooperate wit the U.S. on a missile defense system.

China has argued that the system is a threat to its national security and has hit back with a string of economic measures that include instructing domestic tour companies not to sell tour packages to South Korea.

"Outside factors will not have a bearing on the game." Stielike, who selected four China-based players in his squad, said. "We are just focusing on preparing as well as we can."

Last week, China refused a request from the Korea Football Association to charter a flight from Changsa to Seoul to allow its players more time to prepare for the subsequent game against Syria, forcing the KFA to make alternative plans.

"After China's decision, we asked a South Korean air carrier to reschedule the departure time of its flight, so our players can now return home quickly after playing the match on the road," said KFA spokesperson Cho Jun-heon.

Must Read

Toronto and Columbus play 0-0 tie to start conference final

Nov 22, 2017

Toronto FC and the Columbus Crew played to a 0-0 draw in the first leg of the MLS Eastern Conference Final

Spurs face quick turnaround before conference finals

May 13, 2017

The San Antonio Spurs are thrilled to be in the Western Conference finals for the first time since winning the title in 2014. But they won't have much time to celebrate with a series against the well-rested Golden State Warriors starting on Sunday

Germany on quick qualifying course with 2-1 win over Czechs

Sep 1, 2017

Timo Werner and Mats Hummels both scored as defending champion Germany remained on its uncompromising course to qualify for next year's World Cup with a 2-1 away victory over the Czech Republic in Group C on Friday

People also read these

Toronto and Columbus play 0-0 tie to start conference final

Nov 22, 2017

Toronto FC and the Columbus Crew played to a 0-0 draw in the first leg of the MLS Eastern Conference Final

Spurs face quick turnaround before conference finals

May 13, 2017

The San Antonio Spurs are thrilled to be in the Western Conference finals for the first time since winning the title in 2014. But they won't have much time to celebrate with a series against the well-rested Golden State Warriors starting on Sunday

Germany on quick qualifying course with 2-1 win over Czechs

Sep 1, 2017

Timo Werner and Mats Hummels both scored as defending champion Germany remained on its uncompromising course to qualify for next year's World Cup with a 2-1 away victory over the Czech Republic in Group C on Friday