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'Lucky' Son Heung-min delivers for S. Korea in World Cup tuneup victory

All News 23:49 September 27, 2022

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Sept. 27 (Yonhap) -- Just when you thought he couldn't possibly do more for his country, South Korean captain Son Heung-min was up to his usual tricks on a warm Tuesday night.

Son headed in South Korea's lone goal in their 1-0 victory over Cameroon in a World Cup prep match before some 59,000 fans at Seoul World Cup Stadium.

He was in the right spot at precisely the right moment, as goalkeeper Andre Onana's save on Kim Jin-su's initial shot floated right back to the Tottenham Hotspur star.

Son Heung-min of South Korea dribbles the ball against Cameroon in the teams' men's football friendly match at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Seoul on Sept. 27, 2022. (Yonhap)

Last Friday, Son had rescued South Korea with a late free kick goal against Costa Rica to ensure a 2-2 draw.

With four goals in his last five international matches, Son is now up to 35 for his career.

Son has shaken off a dismal start to his Premier League campaign. After sharing the Golden Boot with Mohamed Salah of Liverpool by scoring 23 goals last season, Son went six league matches and two continental games without a goal.

Then on the weekend before joining the national team, Son exploded for a hat trick against Leicester City. He scored those three goals in a 13-minute span off the bench.

Judging by his performance in the two international matches at home, Son looks to have put his early scoring woes behind him.

Gone are the days when Son had to answer questions about why he wasn't scoring as often in international play and why he was deferring to his teammates too much.

"I was just lucky," Son said of his first header for the national team in seven years. "I had a defender standing in front of me. I just tried to get it over him, and the found the corner."

The two matches against Costa Rica and Cameroon were the final ones South Korea will play at full strength before the World Cup. They will likely have another match in November before traveling to Qatar for the big tournament, though that game will not feature Son and other Europe-based players.

Son said he was anxious to get his third World Cup started, and with South Korea being an underdog, he said he and the team will need all the support they can get from the fans.

Son Heung-min of South Korea celebrates his goal against Cameroon in the teams' men's football friendly match at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Seoul on Sept. 27, 2022. (Yonhap)

"I can't wait to enjoy that festival," Son said, referring to the World Cup. "But we'll clearly be an underdog, and we will be up against some strong teams. It'd be great if our fans continue to give us this kind of support."

The near-sellout crowd showed plenty of support for one player who did not see any action Tuesday. RCD Mallorca midfielder Lee Kang-in did not get off the bench in either of the two matches this month. In late moments, fans chanted Lee's name, hoping head coach Paulo Bento would bring him off the bench

Bento has been peppered with questions about Lee's usage all month. In Tuesday's postmatch presser, Bento stuck to his usual script and said benching Lee was "a technical and tactical decision."

Lee Kang-in himself tried to stay above the fray, saying he doesn't have control over lineup decisions. Son, as team captain, tried to nip the issue at the bud.

"I can understand why fans want to see Kang-in play. I myself was curious how he'd handle himself on the pitch," Son said of the co-assist leader in La Liga this year. "But the national team should not be about Kang-in alone. Only the coach makes the decision on the lineup. I felt there has been too much spotlight on Kang-in. There are other guys who didn't play this time and I am sure they were disappointed, too."

Son Heung-min of South Korea (R) embraces teammate Lee Kang-in following their team's 1-0 victory over Cameroon in the teams' men's football friendly match at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Seoul on Sept. 27, 2022. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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