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Son issues warning as S. Korea travel to China in World Cup qualifier

South Korea’s midfielder Son Heung-min (C) warms up with his teammates during a training session at Mokdong Stadium in Seoul on November 13, 2023 (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP)

South Korea travel to China on Tuesday for 2026 World Cup qualifying, with Son Heung-min warning his side they must keep their cool in front of a sell-out crowd.

The clash in Shenzhen, just over the border from Hong Kong, is the pick of the second round of games in the second phase of qualifying for the World Cup in North America.

Among other notable matches, Australia face Palestine in Kuwait, Japan travel to Jeddah to play Syria, Iran are away at Uzbekistan and India host Qatar.

South Korea thrashed Singapore 5-0 on Thursday to begin their qualifying campaign, with skipper and Tottenham Hotspur forward Son scoring a screamer from outside the box.

The Koreans are top of Group C in the early standings with China, who scored 16 minutes from time for a 2-1 win in Thailand.

Jurgen Klinsmann’s South Korea are favourites in Shenzhen, but Son warned: “I think Asian teams will try to be physical against us, and getting under our skin will perhaps be a part of their strategy.

“We just have to make sure we don’t get dragged into that kind of thing and stick to our own game plan,” Yonhap quoted him as saying following the thumping of Singapore in Seoul.

More than 40,000 will pack out the Shenzhen Universiade Sports Centre stadium for the game.

President Xi Jinping has big ambitions for Chinese football, including hosting and even winning the World Cup one day, but they have only reached the tournament only once, back in 2002.

And following the victory over Thailand, Xi — in an unusually unguarded moment — was seen on video telling Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin