July 20, 2024
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Scmp.com – HONG KONG, Hong Kong’s men’s football national team have been hit by a trio of key withdrawals before they travel to face Iran in a World Cup qualifier on Thursday.

Star player Everton Camargo has been ruled out of the trip to Tehran with a knee injury, while centre-back Helio Goncalves has made himself unavailable because of “a family reason”. Fernando, a Kitchee teammate of Goncalves, is staying at home, with his wife set to give birth.

In addition to the trio, Sun Ming-him, who came off the bench in both World Cup play-off matches against Bhutan last month, has not recovered from the injury that has sidelined him for the past three weeks.

A Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) spokesperson said changes to the squad for next Tuesday’s home match with Turkmenistan were “possible”.

The absence of Camargo is a hammer blow for head coach Jorn Andersen, after the Lee Man forward made a dazzling start to his international career.

The Brazil-born player made his debut in September, soon after obtaining a passport, and has scored three goals in as many Hong Kong appearances. He was sorely missed when Andersen’s team suffered a humbling 2-0 defeat in Bhutan, after hurting his hamstring in the 4-0 first-leg win.
Goncalves was listed in the original 23-man party distributed by the HKFA on Sunday night, but a message sent 41 minutes later said the defender was “withdrawing from the squad due to family reasons”.

He has been replaced by Lee Man central defender Yu Wai-lim, who won the last of his seven caps in a friendly with Thailand in June.

Sun has been a fixture in the squad since Andersen took charge in early 2022, and was a key component of the under-23s team who reached the semi-finals of the recent Asian Games.

The 23-year-old told the Post on Saturday that he was waiting for an assessment from medical staff at club team Eastern before a decision was made over reporting for international duty.

He has not been given the go-ahead to travel to Iran, but will race to be fit in time for the meeting with Turkmenistan.

Andersen’s final 23-man party features four mainland China-based players: the centre-back pair of Vas Nunez, who missed the trip to Bhutan, and Leung Nok-hang, who sat out both October matches because of injury, along with right-back Yue Tze-nam and 16-cap Matthew Orr, who could replace Camargo in the frontline.

Chang Hei-yin, the 23-year-old winger from Lee Man, has been called up to replace Camargo in the squad, while Michael Udebuluzor is set to shoulder the goalscoring burden, despite hamstring issues limiting the 19-year-old’s action for his German club side Ingolstadt 04 over the past month.

Shinichi Chan, who has been playing at left-back for Kitchee but in a more advanced role for the national team, is an option to fill in for Fernando in the full-back position.