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Premier League attacker ready for any role for nat'l team

All News 17:00 November 08, 2021

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Nov. 8 (Yonhap) -- With veteran South Korean striker Hwang Ui-jo sidelined for upcoming World Cup qualifying matches, another Hwang said Monday he's ready to step into that void.

Wolverhampton Wanderers' forward Hwang Hee-chan, no relation to Ui-jo, said he is looking forward to picking up the scoring slack when South Korea face the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Iraq in World Cup qualifiers this month.

Hwang Hee-chan of the South Korean men's national football team speaks to reporters at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on Nov. 8, 2021. (Yonhap)

Hwang Hee-chan of the South Korean men's national football team speaks to reporters at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on Nov. 8, 2021. (Yonhap)

"It's a shame Ui-jo can't be with us this time. He's done so much for us," Hee-chan said of the forward who leads all South Korean players with 13 goals since current head coach Paulo Bento took charge in August 2018. Hwang Ui-jo is now out with a hamstring injury.

"Whether it will be on the wings or up the middle, I'll be ready to jump in and put on the best performance possible for our fans," Hwang Hee-chan said. "We have a lot of great players on this team and we'll be prepared for these matches."

South Korea will first host the UAE on Thursday and then travel to Qatar, a neutral venue, to take on Iraq on Nov. 16, as the final Asian qualification round for the 2022 FIFA World Cup nears its halfway point.

Hwang Hee-chan is in the midst of an impressive first Premier League season after Wolverhampton plucked him away from RB Leipzig in late August.

He scored in his Premier League debut in September and has netted four goals in seven league matches so far.

Hwang joined Wolves on a loan deal and the Premier League is rumored to be working on a full transfer for the 25-year-old.

In this AFP file photo from Nov. 1, 2021, Hwang Hee-chan of Wolverhampton Wanderers celebrates his goal against Everton during a Premier League match at Molineux Stadium in Wolverhampton, England. (Yonhap)

In this AFP file photo from Nov. 1, 2021, Hwang Hee-chan of Wolverhampton Wanderers celebrates his goal against Everton during a Premier League match at Molineux Stadium in Wolverhampton, England. (Yonhap)

"I am having a great time there, thanks to support of my coaching staff and the rest of the club," Hwang said. "The team has unbelievable facilities, and they drive me to keep getting better and better."

Hwang has six goals in 41 international matches to date. His most recent goal came in June this year during the previous World Cup qualifying round, and this Thursday is as good a time to end the drought as any.

As part of the nationwide drive to return to normalcy during the COVID-19 pandemic, outdoor sports stadiums can now operate at 100 percent capacity for the fully vaccinated fans.

The venue for Thursday's match, Goyang Stadium in Goyang, just northwest of Seoul, has some 35,000 seats. Fans must either be fully vaxxed or have tested negative for the virus within 48 hours of the match. Those under 18 can attend without being fully vaccinated with a proper ID, because the vaccination rate in their age group remains low at the moment.

People who haven't been vaccinated for medical reasons must present a doctor's note at the gate.

This will be the first national team football match without crowd restrictions since December 2019.

"I've talked to my teammates already about finally playing in front of fans," Hwang said. "We're all extra motivated to do well for them. We'll try to put on an entertaining show for our supporters."

Hwang Hee-chan of the South Korean men's national football team speaks to reporters at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on Nov. 8, 2021. (Yonhap)

Hwang Hee-chan of the South Korean men's national football team speaks to reporters at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on Nov. 8, 2021. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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