Son: 'My idol Park is still Korea's best player'

Tottenham Hotspur's Son Heung-min recollected his childhood memories of the 2002 World Cup and talked about South Korea's chances in the upcoming marquee event in Russia.

Son Heung-Min playing for Tottengham Hotspur.   -  AP

 

Tottenham Hotspur's Son Heung-min is the biggest footballer to come out of South Korea in the last few years. The attacking midfielder will be travelling to Russia in June for what will be his second World Cup appearance.

The Taeguk Warriors are grouped alongside defending champion Germany, Sweden, and Mexico in Group F. Son acknowledges that his national team is the least favourite to progress into the knockout stages from the group.

"It’s a tough group. Every group is tough. Sweden are better than us, Mexico are better than us and Germany, of course, are better than us. But we want to win when we play, nobody wants to lose. Football is 11 versus 11. Of course, the quality makes a difference but mentally we need to be more ready than anyone else," Son told FIFA.com.

The former Bayer Leverkusen player was nine-years-old when South Korea finished fourth in the 2002 World Cup on Asian soil. Recounting the historic feat, Son said, "I have a lot of good memories of that tournament. I watched the games on TV and I remember after the penalty shoot-out against Spain in the quarterfinal, everyone was going crazy. We couldn’t believe it. We were excited to see South Korea at the World Cup. Everyone was wearing red shirts in 2002, including myself!"

Among the success stories of the 2002 event in South Korea and Japan, was the emergence of Park-ji Sung, who Son admired growing up. The former Manchester United midfielder Park played 100 international games representing his country in three World Cups.

"There were many players (I admire) but, for me, it was Park Jisung. Many Premier League games were shown in Korea when I was young, especially Manchester United because he played there. During that time, he won many trophies. He’s still Korea’s top player. He’s still my idol," said Son, who has 63 international caps to his name.

Park ji-sung celebrates his 71st minute goal against Portugal in the 2002 World Cup.   -  AFP

 

According to Son, he is living the "dream" following in his idol's footsteps by plying his trade in the Premier League. "It was always my dream to play in the Premier League and, still, it’s my dream. I can’t believe I’m playing there. I’m really enjoying London, it’s the greatest city in the world. I’m enjoying going to the training ground and training with unbelievable players," he said.

Of his Tottenham experience, he said, "I’ve improved on a lot of things, both physically and mentally. How I play has changed a lot. I'm thankful to the management at Tottenham - they’ve made me one step better than when I was playing in the Bundesliga."

 

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