Football: Lee Jeong Hyeop back for South Korea, no place for Son Heung Min

Son Heung Min (foreground) could play a key role in South Korea's Olympic campaign in Rio de Janeiro if he is released by the Premier League.
Son Heung Min (foreground) could play a key role in South Korea's Olympic campaign in Rio de Janeiro if he is released by the Premier League.PHOTO: REUTERS

(REUTERS) - South Korea striker Lee Jeong Hyeop, who missed several weeks of action due to a facial fracture, was named in Uli Stielike's squad on Monday for their World Cup qualifier against Lebanon and a friendly against Thailand this month.

There was no place in the squad for Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung Min, who has struggled to hold down a regular place at Spurs but could play a key role in Korea's Olympic campaign in Rio de Janeiro if the Premier League team release him.

The Koreans have already secured top spot in Group G of the 2018 World Cup second qualifying round and will bid to maintain their perfect record when they host Lebanon on March 24.

South Korea had been scheduled to host Kuwait five days later to wrap up the group but that match has been cancelled with the Gulf nation still banned by world soccer's governing body Fifa due to government interference in domestic football.

South Korea will instead travel to Bangkok to face Thailand in a friendly on March 27.

German Stielike said the Korea Football Association had contacted Spurs about the possibility of releasing Son for the Aug 5-21 Rio Games. Clubs are under no obligation to release players since the Olympics are not part of Fifa's match calendar.

"We've asked Tottenham to make Son available for the Olympics as a wild card, and in exchange, we offered not to select him for matches in March," Yonhap news quoted Stielike as saying on Monday.

"Tottenham are in a battle for the Premier League title and they have Uefa Europa League matches remaining. But since our association is being considerate of the club, we hope they will give us a positive response."

Releasing Son may also be in Spurs' best interests since the 23-year-old has yet to fulfil his mandatory military service requirements and was not part of the squad that won bronze at the London Games in 2012.

South Korea requires all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 35 to complete at least 21 months in the military as a deterrent to North Korean aggression.

However, it offers exemptions to athletes who win a medal of any colour at the Olympics.

Stielike has also added powerful forward Lee to the squad.

The dynamic frontman was plucked from South Korea's army team by Stielike at the end of 2014 and helped Korea to second place at the Asian Cup the following January.

However, he was sidelined for almost two months after suffering a nasty injury to his face in training last August.