Tottenham and Korea’s national team captain Son Heung-min had an impressive year in 2023. At the Qatar World Cup a year ago, they made it to the round of 16 teams in an away game, shedding tears of joy. Under Jürgen Klinsmann, he played in eight A-matches and scored six goals and two assists. When the 2023-2024 season opens, his team Tottenham already has 10 goals and four assists by shaking off last season’s sluggishness.
Son’s next challenge will be the AFC Asian Cup, which will be held in January next year. The Korean national soccer team won the title in succession at the first and second Asian Cup events from 1956 to 1960, but failed to win the title again afterwards. Son has also played in the Asian Cup three times, but has never won a title, staying in the third place, the second place, and the quarterfinals, respectively.
Son’s first Asian Cup was in Qatar in 2011. Son, then the youngest player at 18, played in his first major tournament as an adult national team player along with prominent legends such as Park Ji-sung, Lee Young-pyo, Cha Du-ri and Ki Sung-yong. Son changed the mood in the second half of the match and scored his first goal in a monumental A-match in the final group match against India.
Led by coach Cho Kwang-rae, the Korean team failed to close the match 2-2 in the semifinal match against Japan and lost to Japan after a penalty shootout. It was also Son’s first and final A-match between Korea and Japan.
The team finished third after defeating Uzbekistan in the match of third and fourth places. Park Ji-sung and Lee Young-pyo declared retirement from the national team after the Asian Cup. The moment when the youngest member, Son Heung-min, walked on the ground with the oldest member Lee Young-pyo on his shoulder, and treated him with the players by playing the rinse off, was a memorable moment. Son scored one goal in four matches at the first Asian Cup.
The second event, the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia, is considered the moment when the Korean soccer team came closest to winning the title. Led by German coach Uli Stielike, the Korean team continued its undefeated streak from the group stage to the final.
Son Heung-min was criticized for being silent for nine consecutive A matches, including the Asian Cup group stage, but he finally scored two goals in extra time alone in the quarterfinals against Uzbekistan, making a spectacular comeback. He then scored a dramatic equalizer in the second half of extra time, when his loss against Australia was growing. This goal was his A-match double-digit (10th) goal and his 100th overall goal at the Asian Cup in South Korea.
However, South Korea allowed Australia to lose another point in extra time in the first half of extra time, and unfortunately scored 1-2. Although he failed to win the title, Son Heung-min scored three goals in five Asian Cup matches, and proudly listed himself on the AFC’s list of 11 best Asian Cup players, proving that he has grown into a star player.
The 2019 UAE Asian Cup is remembered as the most disappointing event for both Son and the Korean national team. Son Heung-min skipped two group matches and joined from the final match against China, under agreement between Tottenham Hotspur and the Korea Football Association. He also played in the round of 16 match against Bahrain and quarterfinal match against Qatar. It was also the first international match for Son to take over the captain’s armband from Ki Sung-yueng.
Perhaps due to jet lag and physical strain, however, Son fell far short of expectations as an ace due to frequent mistakes and failed dribbles and dribbles. Led by head coach Paulo Bento, the Korean team suffered a shock loss of 0-1 to Qatar in the quarterfinals, failing to advance to the semifinals for the first time since the 2004 Asian Cup. Son only had one assist and no goal in three matches at the Asian Cup.
Son Heung-min has scored 41 goals in 116 A-matches. He is the third highest among all-time Korean national soccer team players, following Cha Bum-keun (58 goals) and Hwang Sun-hong (50 goals). Son has four goals in the Asian Cup.
The Qatar Asian Cup, which is coming up in January next year, is likely to be Son’s last chance to win the championship in his national career. Son Heung-min has never won a championship in his team and the national team since his professional debut. He is the only one who participated as a wild card in the 2018 Jakarta Palembang Asian Games, a competition by age group, and won a gold medal.
Son Heung-min is already over his 30s. He can continue his active career until his mid-30s by taking good care of his body, but this may be the last chance to challenge for the championship while maintaining his best skills with a balance of physical ability and skill. The national team, led by Coach Klinsmann, is considered the strongest ever, led by renowned European players such as Son Heung-min, Kim Min-jae, Lee Kang-in, Hwang Hee-chan, Hwang In-beom, and Cho Kyu-sung.랭크카지노
The variables are Son’s physical condition and managerial risk. During the Qatar World Cup last year, it was uncertain whether he would participate in the tournament due to an orbital fracture, but he displayed his fighting spirit by wearing a face mask. Amid tight schedule and injuries to the starting lineup of his team members, Son is also suffering from minor injuries. If Son is not in perfect physical condition like he did at the 2019 Asian Cup, the national team’s performance will be greatly affected.
Apart from the brilliant player composition, it is also worrisome that the leadership and tactical abilities of the head coach, Klinsmann, are still raising doubts. Rival Japan, which is considered to have the strongest power in Asi, Middle East powerhouse Iran, and home team Qatar are considered competitors who will block Klinsmann’s challenge to win the title.
Son’s participation in the Asian Cup also presents a crisis for his team, Tottenham. Tottenham was unbeaten in 10 games early in the season and was pushed out of the lead after losing consecutive games due to a series of injuries to their starting pitchers. Although they recently won two straight games against Newcastle and Nottingham Forest, Tottenham will face another crisis of ranking competition if its captain, Son Heung-min, vacates his seat early next year due to his participation in the Asian Cup.
If the Korean national team advances to the Asian Cup finals, Tottenham will have to play up to six matches without Son. The competition could also widen with Son’s competition to become the top scorer, who was currently trailing Erling Holan (14 goals) by a gap of four goals as the third scorer in the EPL.
What Son can do is build up as many points and goals as possible before he is called up to the national team early next year.