January 16 – South Korea coach Paulo Bento heralded Tottenham’s Son Heung-min as a pivotal influence in his team ‘s 2-0 win over China. Son, featuring in the starting eleven, earned an early penalty and assisted his team’s second goal.
The Tottenham player featured in Tottenham’s Premier League defeat to Manchester United at the weekend but against China the number seven was in fine form as he skippered his team to an impressive victory.
“All the coaches want to play with the best players, with the players that can be more influential in the games and Son, as I said before, is a player that can play in different positions, that has specific features that allow the team to play in a different way and because of that, and also because he was in a good condition for playing, we decided that he should play this game,” said Bento.
The Asian Cup is Son’s third international tournament in less than a year. The Tottenham star also played at the World Cup and at the Asian Games, where he led his team to the gold medal and received a subsequent exemption from military service. Bento highlighted the players’ commitment to the South Korean cause: “It is a wish and desire that belongs to all of them. It is something they have and they show all the time.”
Bento’s Italian counterpart Marcello Lippi, whose China finished second in Group C on six points, admitted that there was a gulf in quality between the two teams. China were often made to ball-watch during the game and registered just one shot on target. The Chinese have never beaten South Korea in the Asian Cup though China did famously beat South Korea 1-0 in a World Cup qualifying game in 2017.
“I have to admit honestly that the team that we faced tonight are very good, fast, very good technically,” said Lippi. “In every aspect they are very good. We have to accept that. I knew they showed how good they are in possession. We have to be honest. They are used to having this kind of intensity during the game, but yes, I was expecting such a difficult match. We knew it was going to be very hard. At least I had the possibility to let a few players rest. Korea started with the eleven best players. It was very hard, but we knew that and we have to accept that.”
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1611524683labto1611524683ofdlr1611524683owedi1611524683sni@o1611524683fni1611524683