Ki Sung-Yueng 'fit' but may not start in World Cup qualifier for South Korea
Ahead of South Korea's crucial 2018 AFC World Cup qualifier in Uzbekistan on Tuesday, head coach Shin Tae-Yong has a dilemma: whether to start captain Ki Sung-Yueng.
The talented Swansea City midfielder has not played since injuring his knee during a 3-2 loss in Qatar in June. The 28 year-old may be fit again, but Shin is concerned about his lack of match practice.
Ki did not even make the bench in last Thursday's 0-0 draw with Iran in Seoul. He watched from the sidelines as his teammates missed an opportunity to seal a place in Russia with a game to spare.
The Taeguk Warriors have one more chance of booking a place at a ninth successive World Cup, but must win in Tashkent to be certain.
Although Ki, who has 93 appearances for his country, came through a 90-minute training session unscathed over the weekend, Shin is still not convinced.
"You can't become match sharp in just a morning," Shin, appointed in July to replace Uli Stielike, said. "Regardless of how good you are, you should play two or three games after recovering from injury for the sharpness to return.
"If not, there is a possibility of getting injured again. Football does not end with this game and so, as a coach, I need to protect Ki.
"I am glad that Ki is fit, but this is a problem I need to consider a little more," Shin added.
If Ki is not deemed ready to start place, FC Augsburg's Koo Ja-Cheol could once again fill the defensive midfield spot.
South Korea, with 14 points, occupy the second of Group A's two automatic qualification spots behind the already qualified Iran. Syria are in third with 12, ahead of Uzbekistan on goal difference.
Asian expert John Duerden is the author of Lions and Tigers: Story of Football in Singapore and Malaysia.Twitter: @JohnnyDuerden.