“Golden Dreams and Scoring Feats: Son Heung-min’s Hopes for Young Talent”

Joe Lee

(Yonhap) — SEOUL, Oct. 12 (Yonhap) — Son Heung-min, South Korea’s men’s football captain, rejoiced as a rising star wearing Son’s characteristic number led the country to an Asian Games gold medal earlier this month.

Jeong Woo-yeong of VfB Stuttgart topped the Asiad tournament with eight goals in seven matches, including one in the gold medal match that sent South Korea’s under-24 team over Japan to the top of the podium. Jeong wore No. 7, which is usually allocated for Son on the senior team.

Throughout the competition, Jeong gave his best Sonny imitation, playing all over the pitch to showcase his attacking variety as well as his clinical finishing in the danger zone.

On the eve of South Korea’s friendly against Tunisia, Son stressed on Thursday that the 24-year-old Jeong should continue to improve.

“He did a tremendous job helping the team, and I’d like to congratulate him,” Son stated during a news conference at the National Football Centre in Paju, Gyeonggi Province. “However, his career is not over.” We don’t play football only for the sake of competing in the Asian Games. I hope he continues to consider methods that will help him improve.

“After a tournament like that, players tend to get carried away and feel too excited,” Son continued. “But Woo-yeong isn’t like that. He is a calm person, and I am sure this was a tournament that will help him grow. I hope he can be an even better player for the senior team.”

Son also said South Korea should try to create some positive momentum in their upcoming men’s football friendlies — with Vietnam up next on Tuesday — as they get ready for the FIFA World Cup qualifiers in November and then the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup in January.

“The most important event for us is the Asian Cup in January. And in these two matches, we must try to extend our winning streak,” said Son, whose team picked up their first win under Klinsmann in September against Saudi Arabia. “This is our opportunity to build positive momentum and go into the Asian Cup feeling good about ourselves. And no one else can create that kind of vibe. We have to earn it through good results.”

Son arrived in South Korea feeling quite good about the state of his own game. He is leading Tottenham Hotspur with six goals this season, only two behind the Premier League leader in that department, Erling Haaland of Manchester City. Spurs are also sitting pretty atop the league tables with an undefeated record of six wins and two draws.

Son, the 2021-22 Golden Boot winner held to only 10 goals in the 2022-23 season, said he has “absolutely zero personal ambitions” this season.

“I only think about how I can help the team,” Son said. “When I do things that are necessary for the team, then I can gain a few things for myself. And I also want to make up for last season and show fans what I didn’t get to show them last year. I try to entertain football fans in every moment.”

Son is also a little banged up, with a groin injury holding him out of training for both the club and the national team in recent days. Son said he will take part in Thursday’s session.

“I think people may be worried about my health, because there has been more talk about my physical condition than about the matches,” Son said. “I am feeling much better now than I did when I first arrived here. So I’ll participate in training and see how I feel.”

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