Jürgen Klinsmann’s national soccer team will be without former star midfielder Son Jun-ho, 31, for the match against China. Son has been held by Chinese authorities for six months under unclear circumstances since May.
South Korea defeated Singapore 5-0 in the first match of Group C of the second Asian qualifying round for the FIFA Confederations Cup North America 2026 at the Seoul World Cup Stadium on Sept. 16.
With the win, South Korea will play their second qualifying match in Shenzhen, China, on Sept. 21. South Korea is unbeaten in four matches against China (3 wins, 1 draw) after losing 0-1 in the final qualifier for the 2017 World Cup in Changsha, China.레모나토토 도메인
The problem is that they will be without Son Jun-ho. Jung Woo-young (Alkalis), who had been a stalwart in the defensive midfield until the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, gradually stepped down after the launch of Klinsmann, and Son was one of the favorites to replace him.
On March 28, in an exhibition match against Uruguay, Son Jun-ho came on as a substitute after Jung Woo-young left in the first half due to injury. He created two scoring chances, signaling his future success.
After returning to Taishan in Shandong, China, to await the June A match, Son was detained by police in Liaoning, China, on May 12. The Chinese government suspects him of accepting bribes. Some Chinese media outlets have reported that he could face up to five years in prison.
It’s unclear exactly what the charges are, and he hasn’t been granted an interview. This has led some in and out of South Korean soccer to wonder if there are other factors at play, such as politics and diplomacy, besides soccer.
This was an unprecedented situation in which the leading midfielder of the Korean A team was detained by Chinese police and investigated for a long period of time. The Korean Football Association sent unspoken pressure to China by including Son Jun-ho in the roster for the June A match, but China did not budge.
Suddenly, Klinsmann and Son Heung-min stepped in. Speaking at the Daejeon World Cup Stadium on June 19, a day before the El Salvador exhibition match, Klinsmann said, “All we can do now is pray for a quick conclusion and a result. The federation is also doing the best it can,” he said, adding, “I hope it will be resolved quickly and we can play together in September.”
Captain Son Heung-min was also saddened. He was worried that he hadn’t been in contact with Son Jun-ho. “I’m very close to Junho, and we’ve been in contact since we were kids, so I’m worried that he hasn’t responded to my texts,” he said. “The only thing I can do is pray for him and his family. I hope he can get a good result and come back to the team.”
However, he was not released during the October A match. Klinsmann mentioned Son again after the team’s 4-0 win over Tunisia in Seoul on March 13. He said, “It’s unfortunate that Son Junho is not available. “For example, when we play with four players up front and we play aggressively, we need two defensive midfielders to protect the back line when the front four are up front. Son is a player who can fulfill that role well.”
While the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Embassy in South Korea have been meeting with the parties and urging China to investigate the case, Son Jun-ho is still being held in China. Even the National Assembly’s National Audit Committee has addressed the issue, but no resolution has been reached.
In the meantime, the World Cup qualifier against China is taking place. Not only is Son unavailable for the game, but he hasn’t played soccer for so long that his life is in danger.
Park Yong-woo (Al Ain) and Lee Sun-min (Gwangju FC) are filling the defensive midfield spots vacated by Son. It will be interesting to see if Klinsmann can make up for Son’s absence with a win in China.