Son raring for Spurs return

Son Heung-min, South Korean captain and Tottenham forward, taking on two Iranians in their 2-0 win in the round of 16.
Son Heung-min, South Korean captain and Tottenham forward, taking on two Iranians in their 2-0 win in the round of 16.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A win away from Asiad gold, but Korean star knows he has to fight way back into Spurs XI

JAKARTA • Son Heung-min is one win away from the Asian Games football gold medal that will earn him an exemption from military service, but the South Korean is also keeping a close eye on how his Tottenham team-mates are faring in the English Premier League - when he can keep his eyes open that is.

The forward slept through Spurs' 3-0 win over Manchester United on Monday night, with the seven-hour time difference too much to overcome and having played all 120 minutes of the 4-3 extra-time win over Uzbekistan in the quarter-finals.

"It was too late, it was two o'clock in the morning so I was sleeping, but I was very happy and proud when I saw the result," he said. "I'm still watching my team-mates."

Son made one appearance from the bench for Spurs, behind league leaders Liverpool only on goal difference, before linking up with his country's Asiad squad earlier this month. He will not return to England until the middle of next month as he is set to join the senior national side next week for friendlies with Costa Rica and Chile.

And Son is keenly aware he may have to bide his time to reclaim a place in the Spurs starting line-up, with Brazil winger Lucas Moura impressing in his absence with three goals in three league matches to be the club's top scorer.

"I've missed three or four weeks already and we have the international break before I will be back," he said.

AWAITING HIS CHANCE

I'm ready for that. Even when I don't play, I will be waiting for my chance. We're one team and I have to be ready to play for my team.

'' SON HEUNG-MIN, who will miss more than one month of the English Premier League season owing to his participation in the Asian Games.

"I'm ready for that. Even when I don't play, I will be waiting for my chance. We're one team and I have to be ready to play for my team."

Despite his exertions for the Taeguk Warriors in the heat and humidity of Indonesia, he insisted he would be in good shape upon his return to London.

"Of course, it's a bit different with the weather, the humidity and the pitches are also different, but I'll be ready when I go back," he added.

All that stands between defending champions South Korea and the gold is a win in the final tomorrow over bitter rivals Japan.

While reluctant to talk too much about the prospect of earning an exemption, 26-year-old does not doubt the importance of signing off with the title.

All able-bodied South Korean men must complete 21 months' service in the military, but exemptions are offered to athletes who win gold at the Games or a medal of any colour at the Olympics.

Son can still avoid the call-up even in defeat. According to The Times, he still has two more chances at January's Asian Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

But he is not contemplating anything other than victory over the Samurai Blue.

"It's a final. I can't say anything but it's very important," he said.

" We're already here in the final to win something, not just coming to the final just to play it.

"Korea want to win and we deserve to win. We're strong enough mentally, physically. We can beat any team in the final."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2018, with the headline 'Son raring for Spurs return'. Print Edition | Subscribe