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Injury Stuns South Korea’s Asian Cup Team: Son Heung-min and Lee Kang-in Involved in Finger Dislocation Incident

The physical altercation that left Tottenham Hotspur and South Korea captain Son Heung-min with a dislocated finger had been a good few weeks in the making.

The South Korea camp for the Asian Cup played in Qatar over the past month or so had been far from harmonious, with splits everywhere you looked. Manager Jurgen Klinsmann divided opinion, and he himself is said to have thought there was a lack of team spirit in the group, with something of a split between its big-name players such as Son, Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Hwang Hee-chan, Paris Saint-Germain’s Lee Kang-in and Bayern Munich defender Kim Min-jae, and the less-experienced ones.

Son, the 31-year-old captain, is understood to have felt that some of the younger players weren’t taking the tournament — the Asian federation’s four-yearly equivalent of the Euros or Copa America, and a competition South Korea hadn’t won for 64 years — seriously enough, while those like the 22-year-old Lee rejected this suggestion.

A source close to one of the players told The Athletic last week that the group failed to produce a single performance across their six matches, three in the group and three knockout-phase ties, that was 100 per cent collective.

It all came to a head last Monday, the night before their 2-0 semi-final defeat to Jordan, when a few of the younger players, including Lee, wanted to leave the team dinner early to play table tennis.

Son objected to this and forcefully made his point, which drew a similarly forthright response from Lee. An altercation followed involving a number of players, during which Son dislocated a finger as he tried to break things up. It’s also been claimed that Lee was pushed in the chest, and reacted angrily. A spokesperson for the South Korea FA (KFA) confirmed the altercation had occurred, telling the Yonhap News Agency on Wednesday that: “It happened when some young players went up to play table tennis, and Son Heung-min and other older players took issue with it. The players exchanged a few words and Son hurt his finger in the process.”

The Athletic has contacted the KFA for further comment.

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