ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia -- Son Heung-min became the first South Korean goal scorer at the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Saturday with his goal, but he wasn't a happy man in the end.
Son showed tears after South Korea's 2-1 loss to Mexico in their second Group F match at Rostov Arena in Rostov-on-Don. The Tottenham Hotspur attacker cut the deficit to one in the second-half stoppage time but couldn't save South Korea from their second straight loss in the tournament.
"Our players really did well, but it's sad that we lost," Son said after the match in a TV interview. "The players quickly need to recover their mental strength."
South Korea`s Son Heung-min reacts after he failed to score during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Group F match between South Korea and Mexico at Rostov Arena in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on June 23. (Yonhap)
Bursting into tears, Son said the players said to each other that they should regroup to prepare for their final group stage match against Germany, which will be held at Kazan Arena in Kazan on Wednesday.
"The result is something that the players can't do anything about," he said with tears. "Our captain Ki Sung-yueng said he really wants to thank the players. But since our journey is not over, the players said to each other we should not let our heads down."
The goal, which he bagged with a curling left-footed strike from just outside the box, was Son's second goal at the World Cup, following his strike against Algeria at the 2014 tournament in Brazil.
Son vowed that his team will keep working hard to produce entertaining matches for fans.
"I hope we can show all our talents and play entertaining matches for fans," he said. "I want to show South Korean football can do it, and it's important to show that on the pitch."
Son is likely to start against Germany as South Korea's attacking ace. The former Bayer Leverkusen and Hamburg player asked for fan support until the end.
"I'm really sorry, but the players did try their best," he said. "I want to thank fans for their support for us."
Son apparently burst into tears again in the locker room when he saw South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his teammates.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in (L) consoles Son Heung-min following the team`s 2-1 loss to Mexico in their Group F contest at the FIFA World Cup at Rostov Arena in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on June 23. (Yonhap)
"I really didn't want to cry, but after I saw my teammates in the locker, I couldn't stop crying," he said in the mixed zone. "I feel sorry to my teammates, especially those who were having their first World Cup. They really did a great job."
Son said he also regrets not scoring goals early. The 25-year-old had some scoring opportunities in the first half but saw his efforts blocked by Mexican defenders or flying over the net.
"We're not a strong team, so if we get a chance, we have to score," he said. "I should have done better as a forward."
Son emphasized that the World Cup isn't an easy stage and that he is still afraid of playing in a tournament where the world's top teams are sending their best players.
"I will probably say the same thing four years later if I compete at the World Cup," he said. "We play with responsibilities, but so do other teams. We really need to prepare hard for this tournament, and it's important to show things from your experience." (Yonhap)