Son Heung-min of the South Korean men's national football team speaks to an official from the Korea Football Association (KFA) at Radisson Blu Park Royal Palace Hotel in Vienna on Wednesday, in this photo provided by the KFA. (KFA)
Son Heung-min loves playing for his country as much as anyone, but he doesn't put on his South Korean kit just to feel good about himself.
When South Korea take on Mexico and Qatar in friendly matches in Austria later this month, the men's national football team captain will try to settle an old score.
Mexico beat South Korea 2-1 during the group stage at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and Qatar knocked out South Korea 1-0 in the quarterfinals at the 2019 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup.
"We faced both of them at major tournaments, and they caused us some pain," Son said in an interview clip provided by the Korea Football Association (KFA) on Thursday. "At the start of our training camp here, I told the guys about the meaning of these two matches in direct terms. I'd love to beat these two teams."
Coached by Paulo Bento, South Korea will face Mexico at 9 p.m. on Saturday (5 a.m. on Sunday in Seoul) at Stadion Wiener Neustadt in Wiener Neustadt, south of Vienna. South Korea will then play Qatar at 2 p.m. next Tuesday (10 p.m. the same day in Seoul) at BSFZ Arena Admiral Stadium in Maria Enzersdorf, also near Vienna.
These will be the first international matches for South Korea this year. Their World Cup qualifying matches were all wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic, and scheduling friendlies against other countries has proved challenging because of international travel restrictions.
Son said he was excited to be reunited with his Korean teammates and added, "A lot of fans have been waiting to see us play. We'd like to play well for them."
Son arrived in Austria in fine form. The Tottenham Hotspur star is tied for the Premier League lead with eight goals this season.
"I've never once thought I am among the best players in the Premier League," Son said. "Whether it's with my club or the national team, I've always tried to do the best I can."
Son and teammate Harry Kane have been especially dynamic, with Kane leading the league with eight assists. Son said he's "fortunate" to be playing with such a talented and hard-working teammate. He hopes he can click just as well with his national team sidekicks, Hwang Hee-chan of RB Leipzig and Hwang Ui-jo of Bordeaux.
"The three of us have known each other a long time and we know what each other wants," Son said. "They've been going through some tough times on their clubs. I think it's my job to help them regain their form with the national team, so that they'll start play better for their clubs." (Yonhap)