By Yuddy Cahya Budiman
BOGOR, Indonesia (Reuters) – South Korea soccer coach Kim Hak-bom wants his players to rein in their aggression against Japan in order to retain the Asian Games gold in Saturday’s men’s final.
Tottenham Hotspur striker Son Heung-min, who is captaining South Korea as one of the over-aged players in the under-23 competition, is one win away from gaining exemption from mandatory military service.
All able-bodied South Korean men must complete 21 months service in the military as a deterrent against the North, but exemptions are offered to athletes who win gold at the Asian Games or a medal of any colour at the Olympics.
“We are ready for the match and we will show our best performance tomorrow,” Kim told reporters on Friday. “I want to be aggressive as well but I also need the players to be wise.
“I believe our players will play very well tomorrow. I’m just worried about one thing, they may become too aggressive because they really want to win.
“Other than that, our players will perform at their best and without any doubt tomorrow’s match is very important for them. So I don’t want to say anything to the players.”
Son made one appearance from the bench for Spurs before linking up with South Korea’s Games squad earlier this month. Spurs are currently second in the Premier League, behind Liverpool on goal difference, after winning all three of their opening fixtures.
The 26-year-old will not return to Tottenham until the middle of September as he is set to join up with the senior national side next week for friendlies against Costa Rica and Chile.
Son said the team were treating the final as a fresh start.
“Actually we faced some difficulties in the group stages, quarter, and semi-finals,” said Son. “We know the importance of tomorrow’s match.
“We will take tomorrow’s match like the first in the tournament, which means we will need to start fresh. Our team is ready to win.”
Fierce rivals Japan will be out to deny them.
“Of course they’re a strong opponent, we need to compete very well. I think the players are hungry to win,” Son said.
Japan midfielder Koji Miyoshi said the match was a big chance for his team to prove their worth.
“This is a big stage in the final, we want to show our best and our goal is to win the final,” Miyoshi told reporters.
“They have Son Heung-Min, who is a popular player. So for us it is a big opportunity. It will lead us to a good future if we do something great here. We want to enjoy.”
(Writing by Sudipto Ganguly in Jakarta; editing by Toby Davis)