Veteran players arrive in Qatar with worryingly little recent playing time
Hwang Hee-chan and Hwang Ui-jo were both excluded from the lineup for their respective club games over the weekend, a worrying sign for the Korean national team as the 2022 Qatar World Cup kicks off in Doha this weekend.
Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder Hwang Hee-chan didn’t even get a spot on the bench in Wolves 2-0 loss to Arsenal on Saturday, with reports later suggesting that he was out due to hamstring discomfort.
Saturday’s game came just a few days after Hwang Hee-chan had played the full 90 minutes in a Carabao Cup game against Leeds United, marking his first complete match so far this season. He did not show any significant signs of discomfort during that fixture, but may have over extended himself with a far longer outing than he has been used to.
Hwang Hee-chan has been struggling in front of goal with Wolves, failing to score since Feb. 24, a huge dry spell that now encompasses 26 appearances.
But for the national team, it’s a very different story. Hwang Hee-chan is a Taeguk Warriors regular, appearing in almost every game as either a starter or a fresh pair of legs in the second half.
He has made four appearances for Korea this year, appearing for at least 60 minutes in every game he was available for and scoring two goals; against Chile on June 6 and Costa Rica on Sept. 23.
Hwang Ui-jo, meanwhile, is having a terrible season with Greek club Olympiacos.
After making a slow start to his career in Greece, the striker has been entirely excluded from the Olympiacos squad for the last five Super League games, and has only played more than 11 minutes in three league matches this season.
In the Europa League he has seen more success, appearing in every game this season until Olympiacos was knocked out two weeks ago.
Like Hwang Hee-chan, Hwang Ui-jo has seen more success with the national team, scoring two goals in five appearances this year. Often playing up front on his own, Hwang Ui-jo has in recent years been the cornerstone of the Taeguk Warriors offense and earlier this year claimed the rare honor of scoring against Brazil.
That both Hwang Hee-chan and Hwang Ui-jo have seen so little playing time this season is a big red flag for the Korean team. With talismanic captain Son Heung-min currently coming back from surgery on an orbital fracture, head coach Paulo Bento could be dealing with a far weaker midfield than normal in Qatar.
BY JIM BULLEY [email@example.com]