Wednesday’s 6-3 Tottenham Hotspur friendly win over the K-League All-Stars was notable not just for what happened on the pitch but for the small number of players who did not feature. In particular, it was announced before the match that three Spurs players — Yves Bissouma, Fraser Forster, and Ben Davies — would not participate in the match, with Bissouma and Forster out due to illness.
In addition to the aforementioned players, Ivan Perisic also missed out due to injury rehabilitation, while Dejan Kulusevski picked up a small injury in Monday’s open training and was a doubt; he did not feature today.
Speaking in his post-match press conference, Antonio Conte announced that both Bissouma and Forster had tested positive for COVID-19 and are currently in isolation, but Kulusevski and Davies were held out for precautionary reasons.
“Kulusevski and Davies. You saw they had a good training session on the pitch. For Ben it was the second training session. He needed to revcover and run and do the same training as the others. The same for Kulusevski.
“We had a problem with Covid, with Bissouma because the test was positive. Bissouma and Fraser. Perisic is working very well. I think tomorrow we could have part of the training session with us. We are very satisfied because his recovery is going very fast and back in London he will be able to join in more.”
This isn’t an ideal situation considering both of the COVID-positive players spent a lot of time in close proximity to the rest of the team on an 12+ hour international flight to Korea a few days ago. Hopefully this doesn’t turn into a full-blown outbreak, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Athletic journalist Charlie Eccleshire noted that due to South Korea’s isolation protocols, Bissouma and Forster will need to isolate for seven days, meaning they’ll miss the team flight home.
Story in our rolling live news blog, as Bissouma and Forster test positive for COVID-19.— Charlie Eccleshare (@CDEccleshare) July 13, 2022
They are expected to have to isolate in team hotel for seven days from positive test, meaning they'll have to fly back separately from the rest of the squad. #THFC https://t.co/4NXGZJUfLg
Conte went on to talk about the match itself, and his delight at Tottenham’s reception in South Korea during the team’s preseason tour.
“I think it was a good game and to play in front of 64,000 people is very exciting for the players. To find this atmosphere was great and I think because of this the players pushed themselves even though we’ve just started pre-season. It was a good game. I have seen positive things. Other situations that we can improve but we have just started this season. Now the most important thing to bring all the players to be fit for the first game.
“Honestly it was a friendly game but my mentality of my players has to be to get the win. I didn’t ask for a high intensity from my players because this is an early period and we must manage carefully the physical aspect of training. I’m pleased with the effort but I didn’t ask anything other than to enjoy it and give respect to the 64,000 people. To score six goals was positive, to concede three goals was a negative.”
Conte also admitted, correctly, that this tour is as much about Son Heung-Min as it is about Tottenham. The South Korean international is a rock star in his home country, by far the most well-known and best Korean sportsman, and one of the biggest pop culture icons in the country. Sonny was not among the initial starting XI, but was brought on as a special substitute a few minutes into the second half in order for him to soak up the adulation of the crowd.
There were over 60,000 in attendance at the Seoul World Cup Stadium, and they cheered almost every one of Son’s touches. Son scored a brace including one goal from the penalty spot in the 6-3 win.
This article was updated with further information about Bissouma and Forster’s COVID status.