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Midfielder injury concern for both club, Olympic team

All Headlines 10:58 June 13, 2016

SEOUL, June 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korean midfielder Kwon Chang-hoon's injury is a concern for both his professional club and the Olympic football team as there is no timetable for his return.

Kwon, who plays for the Suwon Samsung Bluewings in the top-flight K League Classic, injured his left Achilles tendon during the match against the Pohang Steelers on May 29. The 21-year-old then joined the Olympic football team for the four-nation invitational tournament where Denmark, Nigeria and Honduras also competed, but he didn't play a single match before home fans.

Kwon rejoined Suwon after South Korea wrapped up the tournament as the runners-up last Monday. But in the league action against Incheon United on Saturday he was not even listed on Suwon's match squad.

"Kwon can't do any training at this moment," an official from Suwon told Yonhap News Agency on the condition of anonymity. "He doesn't seem to require surgery, but whenever he puts his foot on the ground he feels pain."

What makes Suwon even more worried is that no one is certain about the date of Kwon's return.

"The medical team expects that he needs at least two or three weeks of treatment," the official said. "But even if he returns to team training after recovery, he will have to make his body fit. It's hard to predict when he will play matches."

The absence of Kwon is a big blow to Suwon as they are looking to climb up the league table. The left-footed player has scored four goals in 11 matches this season and has been the engine of Suwon's midfield along with team captain Yeom Ki-hun. But the four-time domestic champions are currently in ninth place in the 12-team league with two wins, eight draws and three losses.

Suwon have already been eliminated from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League and have been focusing only on the domestic league. But on Saturday, they were even powerless against the league-worst Incheon United at home. Against the 10-man opponents, Suwon only managed a 2-2 draw, thanks to Santos' equalizer in stoppage time.

Suwon are now winless in their last three matches, but their slide could be extended. This week they will meet the two top clubs in the league, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and FC Seoul, on Wednesday and then Saturday, both away from home.

Kwon's injury is also worrying the Olympic football team gearing up for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Games. The young Taeguk Warriors are set to announce their final 18-man squad for the Rio Games on June 27 and will travel to Sao Paulo on July 18 to set up camp. They will face Fiji, Mexico and Germany for their Group C campaign at the 16-nation Olympic men's football tournament.

Kwon was instrumental in helping South Korea qualify for their eighth consecutive Olympics. At the AFC U-23 Championship, which also doubled as the Asian qualification event for Rio, he had five goals and an assist as South Korea finished runners-up and grabbed their ticket to Brazil.

At the four-nation tournament earlier this month, which served as a warm-up for the Rio Games, head coach Shin Tae-yong hinted that he could play Kwon in the team's last match against Denmark. But it turned out his condition was not improving at all, and it forced the coach to test the team's tactics without the core midfielder.

"We couldn't play at the tournament as we originally planned as players like Kwon were left out," Shin said last Monday. "The players should now be always careful about their injuries."

kdon@yna.co.kr
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