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Korea to face Turkmenistan in World Cup qualifier

Posted September. 10, 2019 07:40,   

Updated September. 10, 2019 07:40


On the left side of the chest of the Korean national football team jersey is embroidered a tiger emblem. The Korea Football Association has called Team Korea “the tiger of Asia” in praise of their fierce grit and bravery, adding that the emblem symbolizes the strength of Korean football.

Son Heung-min, the 27-year-old winger of Tottenham Hotspur and captain of the Korean national team, often kisses the tiger emblem when celebrating his goals. With Team Korea getting ready for the 2022 Qatar World Cup, Son said he and his colleagues must play like tigers to advance to the next round.

On Tuesday, Team Korea will have their first Group H match against Turkmenistan in the Turkmen capital of Ashgabat. Standing at 37th in FIFA rankings, Korea is considered much stronger than Turkmenistan, which is ranked 132nd. But Team Korea desperately needs a turn of atmosphere as it suffered an anticlimactic tie with Georgia (ranked 94th) by 2-2 last Thursday. “There is a saying that even a tiger puts his life on the line to catch a rabbit,” said Son Heung-min. “Team Korea must become a tiger and take the game as a matter of life-or-death.”

Teamwork and pressure defense were missing in the match with Georgia, and since then, Son has not been sparing bitter remarks to his colleagues, saying, “With this level of play and mindset, World Cup won’t be within reach.” This is his “shock therapy” to keep the team’s mentality sharpened throughout the second round of qualifier matches. “Nothing should be taken for granted. I scolded younger players to make them realize this lesson,” said Son.

Son himself is also having a goal drought under Paulo Bento. Since the Portuguese manager took the helm of Team Korea, Son has found the net only once in 12 appearances. In the EPL, he has yet to score a goal for Hotspur this season. “I will lead by example with a better performance,” the captain of Korean national football team said. “We will go forward and fix our problems down the road, and this is what I want to show our fans.”

Yun-Cheol Jeong trigger@donga.com