Asian Nations Welcome Back International Football

Whilst many of Asia’s best players including Son Heung-Min and Minamino are well into their season, their respective international teams are easing back into the regular flow of games. South Korea and Japan are playing their first games of the international calendar since the world went into a global lockdown back in March.

Football in the corner circle.

International football finally returns to Asia for the first time in over 9 months. All the top nations are in action across a series of friendly matches. ©pixel2013/Pixabay

Unfortunately for Son, he won’t be included in the squad when the South Korean first-team meets this Friday, Oct 9th. This is because the national team is only including players who play in the domestic leagues for this upcoming round of two fixtures. The games will take place in Goyang, a vibrant region of North Seoul, and will be the first appearance of the South Korean team since lockdown.

In a contrasting fashion, the Japanese first team is only recruiting players from the foreign teams for their squad, leaving all domestic players out of the roster. Only players playing at international clubs will be traveling to the Netherlands for the two friendly matches against the Cameroon and Ivory Coast. Players at clubs in the J-League were not able to leave the country for the time period and still be eligible under the new Covid safety rules.

World Cup Qualifiers on the Horizon

If games had unfolded on the original schedule we would already be in the final stages of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. As it happens, Covid shutdown global sport for six months and pushed back the qualifying round of matches until 2021. Big-hitting football nations are having to think creatively in terms of team selections and training camps in order to succeed in the upcoming competitive matches.

The games being played this week are all friendlies, but with limited opportunities to try out new tactics and assess the chemistry between unfamiliar players, the stakes are high. With excitement in the World Cup 2022 slowly building over the next 12 months, we can expect this round of fixtures to be played in a full-spirited way.

South Korea’s 14 Day Quarantine Blocks Son

South Korean rules currently enforce all arrivals to be in quarantine for 14 days. The policy has proved an effective method of reducing Covid infection rates and making overseas travel an unattractive option. Unlike other countries in the region such as Japan and Thailand, the South Korean authorities took an early stance towards freedom of entry at their ports. The development of rapid Covid result returns was pivotal towards this.

Unfortunately for Son Heung-Min, this means that his participation in the squad is untenable for this round of friendlies. The Spurs goal-machine has enjoyed a tremendous start to the 20/21 Premier League season, scoring SIX goals in four games, four of them in one game against an outclassed Southampton side.

Therefore it’s been decided that Son will remain in London with Spurs during the international break. The same is true for Lee Kang-In playing in the La Liga with Valencia, and Hwang Hee-Chan playing in the German Bundesliga. Given the non-competitive nature of the games, it certainly wouldn’t be worth two-weeks of quarantine for these players to be involved.

Fans Looking Forward to International Football

Despite only being able to select home-based footballers, the South Korean public is clearly excited at the prospect of live football returning on an international level. The squad hasn’t been together in over 11 months so it will be an excellent opportunity to integrate new talent and tweak old tactics to suit the team.

Similarly, the U23 national teams had been expecting competition at the canceled Tokyo Olympics 2020, which has been pushed back into summer 2021. Since this announcement fans around the world have been thirsty for international competition.

After such a prolonged absence from the international scene, new players will be looking to stamp their mark. Japan has selected only European-based players for their two friendly matches in the Netherlands. They have promised to establish their optimistic intentions for future competitions and develop a new fundamental playing style.

The constrictions on Japan selecting only foreign-based players are a first for the national team, but given the immense Japanese talent lurking in Europe’s top-flight leagues, it won’t be a disadvantage by any means. Maya Yoshida, Takumi Minamino, Moriyasu, and Takefusa Kubo are some of the names fans can expect to see lining up over the next week.

The squad will be looking to set the agenda going forward into a more serious competition over the next 12 to 18 months. Young players being exposed to high-quality matches is an essential part of the building process. Elsewhere, the Chinese national team is holding a training camp in Shanghai, Asian champion Qatar will face Ghana and Iran is up against Mali.

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