South Korea’s Son knows he has to de­liver on the pitch

New Straits Times - - SPORT -

SON He­ung-min sported a shock of dyed yel­low hair at the last World Cup in Brazil to stand out from the crowd, but four years on in Rus­sia the South Korean for­ward is opt­ing for sub­stance over style as he bids to live up to lofty ex­pec­ta­tions.

Son was one of the few play­ers who left the 2014 tour­na­ment in Brazil with any credit af­ter Korea’s train wreck of a cam­paign ended in the group stage.

A move to English side Tottenham Hot­spur in 2015 pro­vided the per­fect plat­form for Son to flour­ish, and while he has be­come a highly val­ued part of Spurs’ high-pow­ered at­tack his value to a work­man­like na­tional team is im­mea­sur­able.

It would be no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to sug­gest South Korea’s hopes of ad­vanc­ing from a group that also fea­tures Swe­den, Mex­ico and world cham­pi­ons Ger­many rests squarely on Son’s shoul­ders.

“I feel great when peo­ple say good things about me,” Yonhap News quoted Son as say­ing af­ter a train­ing ses­sion on Wed­nes­day. “But what’s im­por­tant is that I have to show it on the pitch. I know lots of peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tions are on me, so I also feel re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

The 25-year-old was re­al­is­tic about the chal­lenge fac­ing the Kore­ans, who have strug­gled to put two de­cent per­for­mances to­gether in a build-up that in­cluded an im­pres­sive win over Hon­duras and in­sipid losses to Bos­nia and Sene­gal.

“I think we’re the weak­est team in our group,” said Son, adding that he hoped to make peo­ple re­mem­ber his name for his per­for­mances rather than his hair­style in Rus­sia.

“Four years ago, I just thought I needed some­thing to be more stylish, so I dyed my hair. But now, as a foot­ball player, I think that I need to make my name with my per­for­mance.”

South Korea open their cam­paign against Swe­den in Nizhny Nov­gorod on Mon­day.

South Korea’s Son He­ung-min knows his heavy re­spon­si­bil­ity.

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