Socceroos face huge test against Son-powered South Korea

An experimental Australia side will face a tough test against Korea Republic with Asia’s biggest star Son Heung-min named to lead a strong line-up in their June 7 friendly match in Busan.

Arnold named a new-look squad on Thursday including six debutantes among a largely second-string side as he looks to rest his troops with injuries stemming from a huge work and travel load. 

South Korea coach Paulo Bento meanwhile, is taking the opposite approach and is not about to give his main players any downtime after a tough season, with qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup starting in September.

“These are important friendly games with World Cup qualification not far away,” Bento told a press conference in Seoul on Monday.

“We don’t have much time to get together as a national team so it is hard to make many changes and as a coach, I want to call my best players."

South Korea, who take on Iran four days later in Seoul, will be led by Tottenham Hotspur star Son, though many in Korea felt that after a hectic schedule over the last 12 months the forward could have done with a rest.

His European season is not yet over. After an impressive campaign in the Premier League Son is preparing for the final of the UEFA Champions League against Liverpool in Madrid on Saturday.

“I have spoken to Son,” said the Portuguese boss, who was appointed last August and led the Taeguk Warriors to the last eight of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in January.

“The UEFA Champions League final is a special game in any player’s career and so he should focus on that first and enjoy it and put the national team out of his mind,” said Bento, adding that Son is expected to join the squad a little later than the others due to his European commitments.

While German-based stars such as Lee Chung-yong and Ji Dong-won are absent through injury, Kwon Chang-hoon, who missed the 2018 World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup with injury, has been impressive since his return to action in France with Dijon and has been called up.

Former FC Barcelona player, Lee Seung-woo, who plays for Italian side Hellas Verona, also makes the squad.