South Korea Without Son Heung-Min For Crucial Match vs China

“We will do our best to get the win in China and start the second half of the round on a high note,” Stielike told a news conference in Seoul.

China, which has qualified only once for the World Cup, is struggling with just two points but is aiming for an upturn in results after appointing 2006 World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi in October.

To add extra tension to the match, it comes at a time when relations between the countries off the field are at a low point after South Korea agreed to cooperate wit the U.S. on a missile defense system.

China has argued that the system is a threat to its national security and has hit back with a string of economic measures that include instructing domestic tour companies not to sell tour packages to South Korea.

“Outside factors will not have a bearing on the game.” Stielike, who selected four China-based players in his squad, said. “We are just focusing on preparing as well as we can.”

Last week, China refused a request from the Korea Football Association to charter a flight from Changsa to Seoul to allow its players more time to prepare for the subsequent game against Syria, forcing the KFA to make alternative plans.

“After China’s decision, we asked a South Korean air carrier to reschedule the departure time of its flight, so our players can now return home quickly after playing the match on the road,” said KFA spokesperson Cho Jun-heon.