INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL: Son far from sole South Korea test for Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill considers the South Korea challenge a test that exceeds the obvious skillset of Tottenham Hotspur star Son.

Seven goals in his previous five club appearances mark Son as the on-song showpiece name within a South Korea squad arriving in Belfast bolstered by confirmation of a summer World Cup finals spot.

With Northern Ireland stepping out for the first time at the National Stadium at Windsor Park since November’s World Cup play-off disappointment, the friendly presents a chance to showcase the next stage of the evolution under O’Neill.

“Son’s certainly in a great run of form and I think he’s one of those players that, the real value is if you play with him,” said O’Neill. “What he has brought in tow with his incredible work-rate is the quality and the nature of the goals he’s scored recently and the quality of the finishes.

“For me he’s a top player, he’s a top Premier League player and I’d imagine if he became available you’d have a lot of clubs around Europe that would be very keen.

“These are the players you need to test yourself against and four years ago we went with a very inexperienced squad to South America against the likes of Edinson Cavani, Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal.

“If you’re going to play at international level you have to bring your game up and try and compete at this level.

“I think Ki is probably an under-rated player, I saw him play quite a lot at Celtic so it’s no surprise to me to see how well he’s done in the Premier League.

“They are an excellent team, very creative and expansive so for us it’s a good challenge.

“They are going to the World Cup and we felt we should have been going to Russia so it would be nice to beat a team going to the finals.

“It will be good preparation for South Korea and we will bring a physical element to the game which they will need to adapt to in Russia, so I see benefits for both nations.

“We are looking for a good performance and to get the disappointment of Switzerland out of the way in front of a good crowd against a very strong team.”