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Stielike seeks to close gap

South Korea
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 By John Duerden

South Korea's World Cup hopes rest with Son Heung-min after Kwon Chang-hoon injury

The ESPN FC panel discuss Group F, which contains Germany, Mexico, Sweden and South Korea.
Ian Darke leads the ESPN panel in predicting the 2018 World Cup winner with names of Germany, Brazil, France and England among the list.

The lucky 28 players who were named in South Korea's preliminary 2018 World Cup squad on May 14 were expected to turn up at the Paju National Football Centre seven days later for the start of a training camp. The walk from the gates to the clubhouse, down a long straight path that leads past a waiting pack of photographers, has become something of a tradition. Kwon Chang-hoon, however, will miss out on that rite of passage -- Korea's rising star is still in France.

There was not much to play for...

 By John Duerden

Interest in K-League on the wane as South Korea hope for World Cup success

Ulsan Hyundai Horangi, Asian champions in 2012, have seen attendances dwindle.

The weekend of April 13 and 14 will live long in the memory of South Korean football fans for all the wrong reasons.

A total of just 18,000 people in the country attended the six games in the K-League, with five of the tournament's biggest teams at home. Less than 2,000 came to see Ulsan Hyundai Horangi, Asian champions in 2012, take on FC Seoul. Just 3,000 were at Suwon Samsung Bluewings, a club that attracted regular crowds of 25,000 in the previous decade, with one of the best atmospheres in...

 By John Duerden

Asia's World Cup preparations: How are Japan, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Australia set?

The FC crew debate the necessity of the March international break, weighing the positives for national team coaches ahead of the World Cup against the risks it poses for club teams.

All five Asian World Cup participants are busy in this international break. ESPN FC takes a look at where they all stand as Russia 2018 comes into view.

JAPAN

Opposition: Mali and Ukraine. After tests against Brazil and Belgium last year, Japan stay in Europe for what should be easier games.

The squad: Keisuke Honda returns for the first time since November while injuries rule out Shinji Kagawa and Premier League due Maya Yoshida and Shinji Okazaki. Yosuke Ideguchi -- the midfielder who scored the...

 By John Duerden

Son Heung-Min's importance at Spurs a double-edged sword for South Korea

There are few players in the world in the kind of form that Son Heung-Min is in at the moment. The Tottenham Hotspur forward has been impressive all season but has stepped it up a level with seven goals in his past four games, shooting his way out of the shadows cast by the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen.

In a turn almost as swift as the one that left Everton right-back Jonjoe Kenny feeling dizzy at Wembley in January, the South Korea star has gone from being the most underrated...

 By John Duerden

Son Heung-Min must produce Spurs' form as Korea plot for 2018 World Cup

Tottenham's Son Heung-Min speaks to ESPN Brasil to talk about his recent form, Spurs' upcoming match versus Man City and much more.

Son Heung-Min helped Tottenham Hotspur break down a stubborn AFC Wimbledon to advance to the fourth round of the FA Cup on Sunday.

Coming on a second-half substitute, Son livened up the Spurs' attack as they scored three times in eight minutes to win 3-0 at Wembley.

And Son looms as a key figure at June's World Cup, as John Duerden gives his five South Korean football wishes for 2018.

1. Son to replicate club form for country

Past national team coaches have struggled to get the best out of Son....

 By John Duerden

South Korea fans hope Son Heung-Min's Tottenham form carries over

South Korea striker Son Heung Min
Son returns to international duty after being arguably Tottenham's best player in September.

When an exhausted Son Heung-Min left the White Hart Lane pitch on Sunday in the final seconds of a great performance and a 2-0 win over the previously perfect Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur fans rose to give the in-form South Korean a serious standing ovation.

The reaction back home was just as positive though tinged with concern that 96 hours later, Son, having flown thousands of miles, would be playing just outside Seoul in a crucial 2018 World Cup qualifier against Qatar on Oct. 6. He had...