Injured Ki Sung-Yueng could captain South Korea from WCQ sidelines
Ki Sung-Yueng will captain South Korea in their upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Iran and Uzbekistan, even though the Swansea City midfielder may not be fit enough to play in the crucial matches.
Head coach Shin Tae-Yong wants to use the 28-year-old central midfielder's experience as they aim to secure a spot at a ninth straight World Cup, as the team's faltering campaign approaches its climax.
"I want to give Ki the captain's armband even if he can't play," Shin told the Korean media on Wednesday. "Ki has been serving a central role well in the national team."
The Koreans currently occupy second place in Group A behind Iran, who have already booked their place in Russia next year as group winners. That leaves Shin's team battling with Uzbekistan for the second automatic berth in the finals.
Ki underwent knee surgery following South Korea's 3-2 loss to Qatar in June, with that defeat marking the end of Uli Stielike's spell as South Korea coach.
The former FC Seoul and Celtic midfielder has yet to return to full training with Paul Clement's team ahead of this week's start to the new Premier League season.
Shin remains more confident Son Heung-Min will feature in the game against the Iranians, but a decision on whether he starts or comes off the bench will be made closer to the game.
The Tottenham Hotspur winger broke his arm in the loss against Qatar in Doha in June, but he recently made a return to training ahead of the new season.
"I think Son has recovered enough to play the World Cup qualifiers," Shin said. "He will not have a big problem.
"I can't call up Son early, but once he returns to South Korea we will check up on his condition. Then I have to think about whether I should start him or use him as a substitute."
After playing Iran at home on Aug. 31, the Koreans will complete their third-round campaign with a game against Uzbekistan in Tashkent on Sep. 5.
Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch