By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, July 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korean midfielder Son Jun-ho was dropped from the men's national team for a regional tournament on Wednesday because of a knee injury.
The Korea Football Association (KFA) said Son, of Shandong Taishan FC in China, recently suffered a right knee injury and won't be available for the East Asian Football Federation (EAFF) E-1 Football Championship.
Gimcheon Sangmu FC's Lee Yeong-jae will take Son's spot on the 26-man squad for head coach Paulo Bento.
Son, who won the K League 1 MVP award in 2020 before leaving for China, last played for South Korea in September 2021.
South Korea will face China, Hong Kong and host Japan in the four-nation, round-robin tournament from July 19 to 27. South Korea will go for their fourth consecutive EAFF title and their sixth overall in nine tries.
Bento mostly named players based in the K League. Because the EAFF tournament doesn't fall during an official FIFA international window, clubs aren't obligated to release their players for the occasion -- hence the absence of Europe-based stars.
The EAFF event will be a chance for those Asia-based players to make an impression on Bento and win a spot on the FIFA World Cup squad in November. There will be precious few spots available for them, as several European league players, such as Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur, are expected to make up the bulk of the squad.
Son's departure leaves Gamba Osaka's Kwon Kyung-won as the only non-K League player on this iteration of the team.
Some members of the national team will be part of Team K League, which will face Tottenham Hotspur in an exhibition match in Seoul on Wednesday. All 12 K League 1 clubs will play Saturday, and the national team will fly to Japan on Sunday without holding training camp here.
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