Tottenham's Son Heung-min silent again as Korea qualify for World Cup

By Yonhap
  • Published : Sept 6, 2017 - 10:29
  • Updated : Sept 6, 2017 - 10:29

TASHKENT -- Tottenham Hotspur's Son Heung-min said Tuesday South Korea will come up with a better attack at the FIFA World Cup next year, after the team struggled to muster much offense en route to qualifying for the tournament.

Son was part of the national team that clinched a spot at the 2018 FIFA World Cup after earning a scoreless draw with Uzbekistan here. The Taeguk Warriors finished second in Group A with 15 points, two points ahead of Syria and Uzbekistan to win the last automatic qualification spot in the final Asian qualifying round.

In Asia, the top two teams in Groups A and B directly advanced to the World Cup, while third-placed teams need to go through playoffs to earn a spot.

"I feel grateful that we reached the World Cup, but it's a shame that we couldn't win," Son said after the match against Uzbekistan. "We have work to do, but we have nine months to prepare for the World Cup. We'll try to do better than the previous World Cup."

Son started at his usual left wing forward position against Uzbekistan at Bunyodkor Stadium in Tashkent. But Son began slowly as his trademark movement and powerful shots weren't really on display until the added time in the first half, when his right-footed shot rang the post behind Uzbek goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov.

In the second half, Son showed some dazzling dribbling skills and ball control, but it wasn't enough to crack Uzbekistan's dogged defense.
South Korean midfielder Son Heung-min (C) tries to dribble past a Uzbekistan player during the teams` World Cup qualifying match at Bunyodkor Stadium in Tashkent on Sept. 5, 2017. (Yonhap)

Son, who now has 17 goals in 57 matches, enjoyed a fine 2016-2017 English Premier League season with Tottenham Hotspur, netting 21 goals in all competitions to become the top South Korean scorer in a single European season.

But at the international level, his latest performance extended his scoreless streak to seven matches. Son's last goal for South Korea came in October last year when they beat Qatar 3-2 at home.

"I know many people expected to me to score goals, but I wasn't good enough," he said of his performance. "I learned again that the Asian qualification isn't easy. I can see that Asian football is getting stronger."

Son will experience his second career World Cup next year. In his maiden World Cup appearance in 2014, he scored one goal in South Korea's 4-2 loss to Algeria as South Korea took an early exit from the quadrennial event.

The former Bayer Leverkusen man said South Korea will make improvements in attack. South Korea scored 11 goals in 10 matches, most among Group A teams in the final qualifying round, but their last two matches with Iran and Uzbekistan ended up without goals.

"Scoring goals will be our task, but at the same time, getting a clean sheet against two of the hardest opponents is a good thing," he said. "I think we have to work on getting delicate touches on attack, and if we have more communication between the players and coaching staff, we'll do better." (Yonhap)