Son's arrival fails to inspire South Korea

Ruben Hill
August 20, 2018

A gold medal will exempt them from 21 months of military service, an obligation Son is otherwise expected to start within the next two years. Malaysia is in first place with two wins.

Whereas for Son, Korea are still the likely candidates to follow Malaysia out of the group, but his hope for an easier path to the gold medal, and an exemption from his country's national service, has been made all the more challenging by the Southeast Asian side who have been turning punching above their weight into a habit, rather than a rarity.

Also through to the Round of 16 were Palestine, who confirmed their place despite a 1-1 draw with Hong Kong in Group A while Islamic Republic of Iran and Saudi Arabia are just a point away after scoring wins in Group F.

"Something that should not happen has occurred", South Korea's U-23 football coach Kim Hak-bum said after the match.

"I'm very excited, proud and thankful to have helped the team edge South Korea, as well as for the honour of being one of the starting players".

Kim responded to question about Son's limited playing time by saying the star player had only been with the squad a couple of days and his fitness and condition had to be properly managed.

Malaysia had gained a head start against South Korea in the Group E match at the Si Jalak Harupat Stadium, scoring as early as the fourth minute when Muhammad Safawi Rasid pounced on a loose ball after their keeper fumbled a catch.

Chants from the 4,125 crowd soon went up for Son to be put into action, and screams from the big South Korean cheering section signaled his arrival.

Hwang Ui-jo reduced the deficit in the 88th minute but Malaysia hung on for a precious three points.

South Korea suffered a shocking 2-1 loss to Malaysia in the men's football competition at the 18th Asian Games in Indonesia on Friday.

The 25-team tournament is not officially recognized by Federation Internationale de Football Association, but Tottenham allowed the 26-year-old Son to leave England after the 2-1 win at Newcastle.

He said he'd warned the young squad when he arrived not to take any game for granted. "I and our coach told players that we could face a big trouble if we lowered our guard. But the most important thing is that the players themselves recognize the problem".

Malaysia leads Group E with two wins and is three points clear of South Korea, which had opened its campaign by thrashing Bahrain 6-0 on Wednesday.

Bahrain and Kyrgyzstan are staring at elimination after playing to a 2-2 at the Jalak Harupat Stadium.

The top two teams from the six groups and four best third-placed teams will advance to the round of 16.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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