SEOUL (Reuters) – As South Korea’s captain, Son Heung-min makes a point of sharing the credit for the team’s successes and shouldering the blame for the failures and the flying forward did a bit of both after Tuesday’s impressive 2-1 win over Colombia.
Without a goal for the national team since June, when he sprinted from the halfway line to slot home into an empty German net at the World Cup, Son delivered one of his best performances in a Korean shirt as the home side saw off 12th ranked Colombia in a friendly in Seoul.
Scoring the opener with a ferocious right-foot shot from inside the box, Son was a constant menace to the Colombian defence, his pace and movement giving the Koreans the perfect out-ball during periods of sustained pressure.
The 26-year-old, who now has 24 goals in 79 international appearances, said he felt his personal struggles in front of goal has been talked about more than the team’s recent good run under Portuguese coach Paulo Bento.
The Koreans have won nine of their 14 games under Bento, who took over after the World Cup, their only defeat coming in the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup to eventual champions Qatar.
“I felt like I was being a distraction to the rest of the team, because people kept mentioning my name when talking about the national team,” Yonhap News quoted Son as saying after Tuesday’s win.
“I couldn’t have scored the goal today without the sacrifices of my team mates.”
Son has mostly been used as a winger at international level but has been asked to play a more central role in Bento’s experimental 4-4-2 formation against Colombia and Bolivia last Friday.
While he did not find the net against the Bolivians, Son was at the heart of Korea’s most dangerous moves before substitute Lee Chung-yong popped up with a late winner in a 1-0 victory.
Son said he would play anywhere to help the team.
“On my club, I’ve played both as a striker in a two-forward setting and as a winger,” Son said.
“No matter where the coach puts me, my job is to do the best I can in that position. I think it’s important for me to keep playing the way I did today. That kind of consistency will help the national team and myself as a player.”
(Writing by Peter Rutherford; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)