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Son Heung-min puts Korea ahead of personal glory

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan -- South Korean winger Son Heung-min said Monday he'll put the national team ahead of personal glory in an upcoming World Cup qualifier against Uzbekistan.

South Korea will take on Uzbekistan at Bunyodkor Stadium in Tashkent at 8 p.m. Tuesday local time, or midnight Wednesday in Seoul. A win will send South Korea to their ninth consecutive FIFA World Cup. But anything less will lead to a much murkier picture, as South Korea's fate will be in the hands of other nations in Group A of the final Asian qualifying round.

And to pick up their first away victory in this round, South Korea will need Son to step up.

South Korean midfielder Son Heung-min speaks at a press conference at Bunyodkor Stadium in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on Sept. 4, 2017, on the eve of his team`s World Cup qualifier against Uzbekistan. (Yonhap)
South Korean midfielder Son Heung-min speaks at a press conference at Bunyodkor Stadium in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on Sept. 4, 2017, on the eve of his team`s World Cup qualifier against Uzbekistan. (Yonhap)

The dynamic midfielder 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 it's been a much different story internationally. Son's last goal for South Korea came in October last year, and he has just one goal in his past 10 international contests.

Son admitted he is "disappointed" that he hasn't scored more for South Korea, but insisted he won't just be out to end his personal drought.

"It isn't important at all who scores in tomorrow's match," Son said at a pre-match press conference at Bunyodkor Stadium. "The important thing is to win. I will compete with a sense of responsibility, and try to help the team win."

A South Korean draw and a Syrian win over Iran will move Syria into second place and drop South Korea down to third.

South Korea will also finish in third if they lose to Uzbekstan and Syria pick up a draw or a loss.

Third-place teams from Groups A and B will meet in a home-and-away series in October. The winner will advance to another two-legged playoff against the fourth seed from the final round in the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football qualifiers in November to win a World Cup berth.

But if South Korea lose and Syria beat Iran, then South Korea will be eliminated altogether.
 
South Korean midfielder Son Heung-min practices in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on Sept. 3, 2017, two days prior to his team`s World Cup qualifier against Uzbekistan. (Yonhap)
South Korean midfielder Son Heung-min practices in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on Sept. 3, 2017, two days prior to his team`s World Cup qualifier against Uzbekistan. (Yonhap)

Son said he has studied videos of Uzbekistan closely and he has the opponents all figured out.

Though South Korea have 10 wins against three draws and one loss against Uzbekistan, Son said every match he's played against them has been intense.

"I think we'll play another close match tomorrow, and we'll try to win," he added. (Yonhap)
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