Son Heung-min thanks teammates for helping him celebrate milestone with victory
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, June 6 (Yonhap) -- South Korea captain Son Heung-min often deflects credit to teammates, but after celebrating his 100th international match with a goal Monday against Chile, the Tottenham Hotspur star took his team-first mindset to another level.
Son scored on a late free kick to lead South Korea to a 2-0 victory at Daejeon World Cup Stadium in Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul. That it came in his 100th game for South Korea, making him the 16th South Korean to join the FIFA Century Club, would have created an occasion for a pat on the back for Son.
And yet, here was Son in his postmatch press conference, reeling off names of teammates who he thought deserved recognition.
"More so than my goal, I want to thank my teammates for competing in this match with such a great attitude," Son said. "It's always difficult to bounce back so quickly after the kind of loss we had against Brazil (a 5-1 defeat last Thursday). But everyone showed a lot of mental toughness. I am so happy to have won my 100th match."
Son then added with a smile: "It would have been awkward if people had congratulated me on my 100th match after a loss."
Son got the start as the lone striker against Chile, and the expectation was that Son would draw multiple defenders on him, which would then create extra space for other attackers to exploit.
Son quipped he didn't get that much attention from Chilean defenders. He then went on to list players who started Monday after being benched against Brazil.
"I wanted to mention a few names specifically, guys like (defenders) Jung Seung-hyun and Kim Moon-hwan, and (midfielder) Na Sang-ho," Son said. "They proved that they were prepared for this match (after not playing last week). It also showed how deep our team is. We need everyone to play well. And whenever guys play up to their capabilities and show everything they have, I am the happiest man on the field."
At an even 100 matches, Son is tied for 14th place among South Koreans in caps. Former Bundesliga forward Cha Bum-kun is tied for first with 136 caps. Son has already broken a few of Cha's South Korean scoring records in European club football, but he said he won't get too caught up in the number's game in international play.
"If I just go with the flow, there may come a time when I get close (to 136 matches)," Son said. "If I consciously chase numbers like that, then things won't go well for me personally and for the national team."
Son made his international debut in December 2020 as an 18-year-old. He said he didn't think he'd play 100 matches.
"I've just been trying to do my best each and every moment," he said. "Time has flown by, and I've barely had time to reflect. I've dreamed about maybe reaching the century mark one day, but mostly, I've been trying not to get too ahead of myself."
4 Chinese, 4 Russian military planes enter S. Korea's air defense zone without notice: S. Korean military
(LEAD) 4 Chinese, 4 Russian military planes enter S. Korea's air defense zone without notice: S. Korean military
Yoon says alliance with U.S. upgraded to 'nuclear-based alliance'
S. Korea seeks to win U.N. Security Council seat
(URGENT) Yoon says S. Korea-U.S. alliance upgraded to 'nuclear-based alliance'
S. Korea left seeking improvements after 4 pre-World Cup friendlies in June
Numbers show Ryu Hyun-jin's trouble limiting hard contact, generating whiffs
N. Korea's suspension from Olympics augurs ill for Seoul's peace efforts
S. Korean LPGA stars off-kilter with Tokyo Olympics nearing
N. Korea's withdrawal from Tokyo Olympics dampens hope for renewing inter-Korean sports cooperation